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Black Leaders Call On State To Work With More Minority Owned Businesses
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Of everything the Mississippi government buys, just 2 percent of those goods and services come from minority owned business. The state's legislative black caucus says that needs to change dramatically.

Lawmakers with the caucus say the state has neglected to do business with companies owned by women and African-Americans leading to very low participation rates.

Caucus chair Senator Kenny Wayne Jones of Canton says those businesses are missing out on the billions of dollars the state spends every year.

"It's not millions, it's 15-billion that we are talking about on the procurement process. And that is everything in a nut shell," Jones said.

Jones says during they upcoming legislative session they will focus on ways to push participation as high as 15-percent.

To begin they are teaming up with a web site called where-to-go-4-1-1, which is intended to connect minority owned businesses with state agencies.

James Covington runs the site and says too often black businesses are frozen out of government work, which stifles their growth.

"And if you have a high unemployment rate in the African-American community and the African-American business class is a key element for employing people, would it not make sense to invest in those entities" Covington said.

The Mississippi Development Authority only began tracking minority participation in 2010.

Since that time, minority participation has grown by almost 20-percent, though it still represents a small slice of total spending.

The MDA has an office dedicated to recruiting and developing minority owned businesses.

Two years ago, they launched a web site registering minority owned businesses across the state.

In that time the MDA says it has met with over 81 state agencies to teach them ways identify opportunities with minority owned companies.