I downloaded the State of Indiana’s database of certified minority-owned and women-owned businesses. The database is very detailed and includes the classification for the race and/or ethnicity of the 51 percent-plus owners of those certified businesses. Of course, those Indiana certified businesses are also certified by the City of Indianapolis.
The state’s minority business database contains at least 592 African-American-owned businesses – from all around the state, but mostly from here in Indianapolis.
Examining the database, I noticed a few weird things.
An alleged minority-owned business which touts on its website that it is “a minority owned company whose combined heritage goes back over 80 years” is nowhere to be found on the roster.
I found another major business, that has received tens of millions in city contracts, certified as a minority-owned business. But the owner’s race/ethnicity is listed as “Other.”
To my knowledge, the owner of this major contracting and developer business is not African-American, not Asian, not Hispanic, not any race or ethnicity delineated by the federal government or Indiana state government qualified to be a certified minority business enterprise.The business Brown describes as receiving "tens of millions in city contracts" that has been certified as a minority-owned business by the state under the category "Other" is likely Ersal Ozdemir's Keystone Construction since that is how his minority certification is shown on state records. Ozdemir is a Turkish immigrant. So why would his business qualify as a minority-owned business? In my past research I uncovered the fact that Turks might qualify as minorities for contracting purpose depending on which part of the country they're from. Some parts of Turkey are considered to be part of the Middle East and thus are accorded minority status. It's really splitting hairs and is just further proof of how nonsensical MBE classification has become. Brown is going to try to find the number he wants by requesting every contract included in the city's $500 million figure it says was spent on minority businesses and cross-referencing them with the state's records.
Minority contracting is one of the most abused and corrupt areas of public contracting. Many minority-owned contracts are total shams. Persons who supposedly own a majority interest are mere pawns for politically-connected non-minorities who are simply looking for another leg up over competitors in the public bidding opportunities. The FBI has uncovered this happening with some frequency in Chicago. It happens here in Indiana as well. It's just not investigated. Indiana also doesn't limit minority preferences to disadvantaged businesses. DLZ, an engineering firm that lavishes campaign contributions on politicians all over the state of Indiana and which does business all over the Midwest, is a perfect example. It's classified as a minority business because its majority owner is Asian-Indian, but it is in actuality more advantaged than many non-minority owned engineering firms. Granting preferences to businesses like DLZ or Mays Chemical, which is owned by Bill Mays, is a total sham. These businesses have sales reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars a year. If they can't stand on their own reputation after growing into businesses that large, then something besides the owner's status as a member of a minority ethnic group is wrong.