Minority business development setback in Virginia?

Posted by R. Neal

Incoming Virginia Governor fires director of the Virginia Department of Minority Business Enterprise:

While most government employees were taking the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Ed L. Hamm Jr. was in the office cleaning out his desk.


What puzzles Hamm and others is that based on conversations with Kaine and Leighty, Hamm expected a smoother transition. Instead of weeks of no contact and an abrupt goodbye, Hamm thought his advice would be sought to further the work his team had done the past four years documenting Virginia's abysmal record of procurement contracts to minority-owned and white female-owned businesses.

"The agency has a lot of critical things ongoing," Hamm told me on the phone as he packed up, "one of which is to ensure that the data being reported from the agency to the governor is reasonably accurate every quarter. That is a continuing battle.


Hamm, a multimillionaire who initially took on the job at no salary under Gov. Mark R. Warner, led the agency's January 2004 disparity study that found that minority businesses received 0.44 percent (about $39 million) of Virginia's contracts from 1997 to 2002. Minority business received 17 percent of state contracts in Maryland and 7 percent in North Carolina. Virginia should be at 3 percent to 5 percent, Hamm said.

A huge part of the problem has been inaccurate data, he said. For example, the study found that the state's list of minority vendors included huge, white male-run corporations "fronting" as minority or white female-owned, he said.


Some black politicians and community advocates in Hampton Roads believe the 60-year-old Hamm, who is CEO of E.L. Hamm & Associates in Virginia Beach, a consulting and engineering company, was disrespected by the "Richmond Connection."

Hamm sits on several boards, has mentored minority business owners and donated millions to area philanthropic causes. Because state lawmakers claimed there was no public funding for the disparity study, Hamm gave $500,000 to start it. The money was later reimbursed through private funds. Hamm even donated $25,000 to Kaine's inauguration.

The article says the function of minority business development may be moved to the office of secretary of administration which oversees procurement. There must be more to this story. Maybe it has something to do with "huge, white male-run corporations fronting as minority or white female-owned" companies?