Ownership Matters

There's scene in the movie "Crash" in which Matt Dillon pleads with insurance Loretta Devine to help his sick father with an insurance claim. Dillon notes that his father's business went under when he lost his city contract because of a push to award contracts to minority-owned firms, never mind that all of his father's employees were black.

It's a point our firm has made in reports to the City of Philadelphia over the past few years, that ownership isn't everything. Since the distribution of economic opportunity is quite different between a majority-owned firm that employs all minorities versus not, or a minority-owned firm that employs all minorities or not, keeping stats on contracts to minority-owned firms doesn't quite paint a complete picture.

And yet, ownership still matters, big time. Ownership is how we create wealth in this country, and for all the focus on income disparities among racial and ethnic groups, wealth disparities are far greater and far more important.

To be sure, one must make sure that what minority firms are becoming over time is good firms, not good minority firms. If the value of your firm is that it is minority-owned, you're not going to be able to extract the maximum value when you try to sell it or go public, which is how wealth creation really happens.

But it is still very important to be mindful of the participation of minority-owned firms in City contracts. I am glad to have had the opportunity to work on this issue here in Philadelphia, and later this week I'm glad to have the opportunity to testify to City Council on this subject. Because, when it comes to making sure all of us have the best opportunity to participate, compete, succeed, and thrive, ownership still matters.

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