The Trouble with DBEs

John Hinson / November 2015

I got a call from the director of construction of one of our large corporate building owners to discuss their minority contracting goals in our community. He asked me, “Why is it so hard to find people to fulfill the DBE (Disadvantage Business Enterprise program) goals? Don’t the people see the opportunity we are trying to present for them?”
    
He declares, “You go find them, create them, mentor them and subcontract to them.”
    
I am sure many AWCI contractors face this challenge and consider it as giving back to our communities, but no one should be forced to violate the laws to meet these quotas. No one should be forced to employ a company that has no experience, risking our reputation and money on their performance. I referred to Don Gregory’s article in June’s issue of AWCI’s Construction Dimensions about the unlawful act of artificially employing a DBE company and risking penalties and fines if caught. What is really frustrating is its impact on our craftsmen and their careers.
    
Reputable companies furnish health insurance, a top-notch safety program, an accredited training program, a 401(k) retirement plan, tools, equipment and obviously workers’ compensation coverage to protect our craftsmen in the event of an accident. In a nutshell: We provide careers.
    
And this guy wants us to subcontract to a company (a guy) that has no people, no tools, no experience, no safety protocol and basically no reason to be doing this type of work other than meeting a certain criteria of “disadvantaged proportion.”
    
How does this help our craftsmen when I lay off mine to hire his? How does this help our industry image? We help the masses with careers whereas this guy is the only person to win in that game.
    
I know you guys see this too. Therefore, I want to share a reasonable solution if you are presented with this situation: Request the owner to require the DBE to meet or exceed the same career building criteria for his recruits that he receives from his own employer.
    
Thank you, and I hope you and your team have a great Thanksgiving. Share some with your people.

In addition to being 2015–2016 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Hinson is president of the Dallas division of Marek Brothers.

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