County council member demands minority-owned businesses be included in $60 million public project

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As Greenville County prepares to spend $60 million on a new government building as part of the redevelopment of County Square, some members of the African-American community have questions about whether their concerns about the project are being taken seriously. In particular, some members of the African-American community want to make sure that minority-owned contractors are included in the building’s construction. 

Greenville County Councilman Ennis Fant said African Americans make up about 20 percent of Greenville County, and he wants that community to reap some of the benefits for their part in the investment in the governmnet building. 

“We feel that at least 20 percent of the contracts issued in this project should go to African-American contractors,” Fant said. “That’s only fair.”

Fant said he’s repeatedly reached out to county leadership about this, but his concerns have fallen on deaf ears. 

“We have asked about contracts for the last 24 months…have gotten no answers at all,” Fant said.

The Greenville-based Minority Economic Development Institute works to connect minority-owned contractors with local construction projects. Its chairman, S.T. Peden, said they routinely work with about 30 minority-owned contractors, including both general and trade contractors. He also said he also hasn’t had any luck getting the attention of county leadership when it comes to the project. Peden told 7 News he usually doesn’t have this this much trouble when reaching out about public and private projects. 

“It basically says we aren’t interested in talking to you about it…we going to do what we want to do or what we don’t want to do,” Peden said. 

County Council chairman Butch Kirven said the bidding process hasn’t begun, but the county is reviewing its policies as they pertain to hiring minorities for government projects. 

“We’ve asked our staff to undertake that review, and when that’s complete it will be presented to the county council for their review and action as appropriate,” Kirven said. 

Kirven also said he cannot definitely say any minority-owned businesses will be awarded contracts for the project.

“You have committees that sit down and review contracts, and they identify the various criteria of the best qualified,” Kirven said. “They select the ones that can perform the best services at the best prices.”

He said neither he nor other council members serve on those committees. 

Fant said he is also looking to have women-owned businesses included in the project. 

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