Members of the Metro Council’s Black Caucus are hoping hurdles are removed to ensure sufficient minority, female and small business participation in the construction of Nashville’s new $287 million convention center headquarters Omni Hotel.
Fifteen months into work on the city’s Music City Center, project leaders have fulfilled a goal in extending at least 20 percent of work to contractors that are small businesses or minority- or female-owned. But with a June groundbreaking of the adjacent hotel just weeks away, black leaders are now turning their attention to Omni.
The Black Caucus authored a letter to Omni officials last week asking that company representatives attend a future caucus meeting to discuss Omni’s diversity program and how they plan to monitor it. The letter references a $95 application fee charged to potential contractors.
“Several contractors have brought to our attention several practices that have been put in place that may not be considered inclusive,” the Black Caucus’ letter reads.
“For example, the $95 fee that is charged to contractors before they can be considered as a potential DBE [Diversity Business Enterprise] contractor has deferred many Small/Minority/Women owned companies from seeking participation on the Omni Hotel Project.”
Prior to the council’s approval of a public-private deal to finance the hotel’s construction, Omni leaders expressed a desire to ensure minority, female and small business participation in Nashville.
But the Black Caucus’ letter says the fee has turned into an obstacle for already struggling businesses.
“This fee is disappointingly limiting the amount of Small/Minority/Women owned business participation,” the letter reads.
While members of the Black Caucus understand the fee is used to conduct background checks, the letter continues, they say most applicants have already been subjected to checks via the nine-member Convention Center Authority.
Omni spokeswoman Caryn Kboudi could not immediately be reached for comment.