Council Report: FW reorganizes minority, women business committee

In an attempt to create more opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses in the city, the Fort Worth City Council is reorganizing the Minority and Women Business Enterprise Advisory Committee (MWBEAC).

The change will become effective in October, said Director of Economic Development Robert Sturns. He said the change, in the long term, will let the city address why some minority firms have not been able to get as many contract opportunities as they would like.

“One of the key things we’ve heard is that smaller minority businesses just don’t know who to reach out to, who to build partnerships with,” Sturns said.

Previously, the committee consisted of a representative from each of the nine council districts, with four of the seats vacant. The reorganized 16-member committee will consist of a representative from each of the following:

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*Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

*Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce.

*Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. Pan Asian American American Chamber of Commerce – Southwest.

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*Regional Hispanic Contractors Association.

*Black Contractors Association.

*Women’s Business Council – Southwest.

*DFW Minority Supplier Development Council.

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*Association of General Contractors.

*Tarrant County Contractors Association.

*North Central Texas Regional Certification Agency.

*City of Fort Worth’s Transportation and Public Works Department,

Water Department, Property Management Department, Parks Department and Economic Development/Business Diversity Office.

Sturns said the change will bring in members with more specific backgrounds in construction and experience in procuring small-business opportunities. He believes it will also help reach the city’s goal of 25 percent in 2009 the city established a 25 percent goal on all non-professional service solicitations for minority business enterprises. Sturns said the current percentage is around 18 to 20 percent.

“Best case scenario, we have things in place where we are hitting that aspirational goal. It benefits us as a city to take those small business owners and help them grow and get additional contracting opportunities,” he said.

“To revamp the advisory board with people who have hands-on experience is a great thing,” said John Hernandez, president/CEO of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a member of the new committee.

“For some reason or another we’ve missed the mark. MBE [minority business enterprises] is very important to the city and very important to both minority chambers.”

Hernandez cited work on the new multipurpose arena as an example of various minority groups working together and the success that can result. He said the groups include the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black and Hispanic chambers and the Black and Regional Hispanic contractors’ associations.

“We’re all working together on the arena, and it is a great thing,” he said. “It’s vital to not only Fort Worth, but also to my membership here at my chamber to keep that line of communication open.”

Sturns said that at the end of the day, it comes down to creating the most effective program. He also said the committee has a “pretty aggressive timetable.”

“From the standpoint of building the overall capacity, this will be a positive move forward,” Sturns said. “We’re always looking at how we can come up with the most creative, efficient and economic way to come up with business development.”

Council Notes:

*The council heard a presentation as it prepares to move forward with property tax refunds. Tarrant County Commissioners decided on Sept. 20 to spend $7 million from its general fund to cover repayments that included $8.7 million in refunds on top of $3 million already pending. However, Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke assured the council that the city is still “$1.4 million to the good on the budget.”

*Opportunities concerning property on Lake Arlington as part of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan were discussed. These include acquiring Lake Arlington shoreline as a linear park and open space, funding shoreline trails that are connected to a Fort Worth-to-Dallas trail, and creating a future urban village at the lake.

*The council passed a resolution to create a Fort Worth Public Improvement District with the Walsh Ranch/Quail Valley development on the city’s west side. This would provide extra services, for a fee, to homeowners, such as plantings at the entrance to the development, extra security, lighting and irrigation.

*The council conducted a public hearing and passed a resolution to move forward with the Berry/University Development Plan, incorporating the urban village plan into the city’s Comprehensive Plan. This includes taking steps to help improve storm water management, a planned future TCU/Berry Tex Rail Station at the intersection of Berry Street and Cleburne Road, and dealing with the continuing growth in the Texas Christian University student population. The plan also depicts Berry Street with additional housing, mixed-use shopfronts, green space and walking areas.