Texas' historically underutilized business program : can affirmative action run on good faith?
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The State of Texas has long been known for its thriving economy, but it has left many behind on its path to greatness. Systematic and deep-rooted hurdles have stopped minority-owned businesses from being able to flourish in the Lone Star State. Lack of access to capital and difficulty breaking into business circles that white men have dominated for years have plagued these businesses, curtailing their growth. As a result, the state founded the Historically Underutilized Business program nearly 30 years ago to address these barriers to entry. The program seeks to make “good faith” efforts to boost minority-owned businesses by proactively allocating state contracts to these businesses. However, without enforcement or oversight protocols in place, and no repercussions for those who sidestep the program, many minority-owned businesses see the program as obsolete. The statistics agree: the program has not seen any improvement in overall minority-contracting levels in 25 years. While some minorities, like woman-owned businesses, have grown under the program, other minorities, predominantly black-owned businesses, remain stagnant. The disparity has created a cultural and monetary divide between these communities. This rift has led to allegations of corruption and shed a harsh light on persisten issues with the state’s contracting process. Minority-owned businesses have been hesitant to speak out against the program in the fear that they will be blacklisted by the state agencies that distribute the contracts. In recent years, the program’s issues and the divide between minority business owners have come to the forefront of African-American legislators’ minds. Lawmakers are now looking for ways to incentivize the “good faith” program in the hopes that minorities will finally see equal and sustainable success. However, with 25 years of stagnation and no enforcement strategy, business owners are skeptical.