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Published: Tuesday, 5/22/2007

Commissioners seek arena work for minority firms

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

They don't have the legal standing to ensure their goal is reached, but the Lucas County commissioners would like to see substantial participation from minority business owners and workers on the multipurpose arena in downtown Toledo.

Today, the commissioners are to pass a resolution with the stated goal of 15 percent of the contracted and hourly work being awarded to minorities.

State law prohibits county governments from setting aside portions of construction projects for minorities or females, but the commissioners hope their intentions will translate into greater minority participation in the $85 million arena set for construction in October.

"We need to give work to a part of the community that has historically struggled to get work on these big projects," Commissioner Pete Gerken said.

"By setting this goal, we accomplish two things: We're telling contractors to be thinking about it while putting together their proposals, and we're telling the minority business community to be prepared."

Commissioners had the same goal when construction began on Fifth Third Field in 2000, and worked with same project management team then that is now slated to oversee the new arena.

General contractor Roosevelt Gant, who worked with the Maumee-based Lathrop Co. on Fifth Third and again will join forces with Lathrop on the arena, said about 7 percent of contracted work for the ballpark went to minority-owned businesses.

Mr. Gant said yesterday the percentage was higher for minorities earning hourly wages, and told The Blade in 2002 about 20 percent of the work force was made up of minorities and women.

He said the commissioners' goal of 15 percent minority participation on the arena is attainable but will be a challenge.

"You have to look at what the real pool is for contractors and workers," Mr. Gant said. "We have to put extra work into attracting minority-owned businesses because there aren't as many of them out there."

Mr. Gant said prime contractors will be encouraged to develop partnerships with minority subcontractors, and qualified minority prime contractors will be urged to bid.

Most construction contracts will be sent out for bid this fall, Mr. Gant said, but the county could complete bid packages for the demolition portion of the arena project in the next two weeks.

The county needs to clear seven buildings in downtown Toledo to construct the arena, and hopes to begin demolition in July.

Additionally, the commissioners have agreed to pay for the demolition of the Sports Arena on Toledo's east side to make way for the planned Marina District.

The county will pay for the demolition of the old arena to compensate Toledo for vacating a portion of Superior Street and Frogtown Alley, between Madison and Jefferson Avenues, where the new arena will be built.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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