Publisher’s Note: Revamp Ohio’s certification programs

Ronda Watson Barber

By Ronda Watson Barber
OhioMBE Publisher

Ohio’s Inspector General released a report this week outlining that hundreds of EDGE (Encouraging Diversity Growth and Equity) certified businesses didn’t qualify for the program because the State of Ohio failed to keep tabs on their eligibility.

The report found that 357 business certified as EDGE businesses have violated the program’s 10-year participation time limit. Additionally, the report highlighted CTL Engineering. CTL Engineering claimed to be an economically disadvantaged business then though the company billed over $35.5 million in 2016. CTL is an Asian Indian firm.

The report recommended that the Ohio Department of Administrative Services’ Equal Opportunity Division, which runs the EDGE program, revise its policies to make sure companies participating in the program are still eligible. It also said state officials should “strongly consider” a review of staffing levels, the program’s budget, and system upgrades to help boost enforcement.

I think Ohio’s certification programs need to be revamped. Presently, African-American, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asians are considered minority groups. Asian includes All persons having origins in any of the original people of the Far East, including China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. India has been included in the definition of “Asian.” Subsequent to that, Pakistan was included because the country came about as a division from India. 

Asian Indian business owners lobbied to be considered minorities during the Celeste administration. Why are they in the program? What discrimination have business owners from India faced? Most are of means. They are simply benefitting from the struggles Black businesses have faced. The median household income for Ohio’s Asian population is $71,820 There are more than 21,000 Asian American-owned businesses in Ohio, with receipts of $10.8 billion dollars.

With respect to business sectors, professional/scientific/technical services and health care/social assistance account for 15 percent and 14 percent respectively, of Asian American-owned firms. These sectors account for 13 and 10 percent of all businesses in Ohio respectively. Eleven percent of all accommodation/food service firms in the state are owned by Asian Americans.

Contrastly, the median household income for Blacks is $32,163. There are over 81,000 African American-owned businesses in Ohio, with receipts of $9.1 billion dollars. Health care/social assistance businesses represent the largest portion of African American-owned firms at 24 percent. Within the African American business community, this sector is two-and-a-half times larger than the proportion of Ohio businesses taken as a whole. Administrative/support/waste management services make up a significant proportion of firms accounting for more than 11 percent of all African American-owned businesses.

Personally, I contend that only Black, Hispanic and Native America business owners should be in the protected certification class. The first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia 400 years ago. Black folks in America have lived through slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement. The playing field is still not equal. Racism and discrimination still exist for Black people.

State officials have a lot of cleaning up to do. They also need to revisit the goals and purpose of the EDGE program. Only business owners that faced true every day 365 discrimination should be eligible to participate.

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Just my thoughts…rwb

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