Minority and women-owned businesses in Orlando’s Orange Country have enjoyed millions of dollars of county tax funds for decades.Orlando is the first area government to extend programs that awards project funds to minority and women-owned businesses. But now, its support of these businesses may end. According to the Orlando Sentinel, in conjunction with three other organizations, the county will observe the achievements of its funding. The study is estimated to take more than a year and the results will determine whether or not the county will continue to set aside money for these businesses or not.
The program was set up to help support small businesses with public funds that would have otherwise been used to finance large copmanies, many of which are located outside of the local area. Funds are given depending on how many women or minority-owned businesses are included in subcontracts.This year alone, Orlando spent almost $4 million on minority and women-owned business; about 22 percent of the total spent on private companies.
Critics argue that the program allows inexperienced companies to receive work they don’t deserve. But supporters such as Derek Burke, the African American president of the WBO engineering firm, says that the program has worked. Burke has been in business for 18 years and owes his company’s growth to the program. He notes that the money made from these subcontracts not only helps these minority businesses, it also stays in the local community and brings jobs to the area.
Kevin Walsh, Orlando’s minority enterprise business official, also expresses his desire to see the program continue.
“I think the need is still there and is still great. Absolutely,” he said.