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Cleveland officials tout a new ordinance to increase minority and women participation in development

Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin, flanked by city officials including Mayor Justin Bibb, speak to reporters outside Cleveland's City Hall.
Gabriel Kramer
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin, flanked by city officials including Mayor Justin Bibb, speaks to reporters on the steps of City Hall on June 27, 2023. A new ordinance is designed to encourage developers to include Cleveland-based businesses and minority- and women-owned businesses in their work.

City of Cleveland leadership spoke on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to discuss the recently passed Community Benefits Ordinance, which they say will have a "historic community impact."

“We want to continue to restructure our economic development department to be more responsive to the business community, to make sure we can be more aggressive to attract and retain new companies,” Mayor Justin Bibb said.

The ordinance is a legally enforceable agreement between the city of Cleveland and developers, designed to encourage those developers to include Cleveland-based, minority-owned and women-owned businesses in their work and provide "tangible benefits to communities" in exchange for city incentives, according to a city media release.

“We’ve heard from contractors and contractors of color and women for years that they’ve been frustrated that they have not been able to be a part of the market,” said City Council President Blaine Griffin, who represents several East Side neighborhoods in Ward 6. "We’ve listened and now we are taking action."

In the past four years, minority- and women-owned businesses lost out on nearly $14 million in wealth creation on Cleveland projects and development, according to the city. Between 2014 and 2018, only 4.62% of $1.1 billion in Cuyahoga County contract spending was awarded to those businesses.

“This legislation and this commitment by the city of Cleveland will allow Cleveland to be the capital of the Midwest in terms of seeing new minority developers and residents get their fair share,” Bibb said.

The City Hall press conference came a couple of weeks after the high-profile firing of Tessa Jackson, the city's former economic development director, reportedly after developers complained she obstructed development.

The American Center for Economic Equality and Black Contractors Group Inc., which advocates for economic opportunities for minority contractors, questioned the mayor in a statement regarding the firing of Jackson, who the statement described as an advocate of the CBO and someone who worked to bring equity and fairness to black and minority contractors and construction workers.

“Was it that she angered the majority white developers, construction managers and contractors who have had their run of the city and lucrative government contracts,” the statement read.

Bibb said he "decided I want to go in a different direction" in response to questions about Jackson's departure, but said he supports the new ordinance.

“As mayor, every chief, director serves at my pleasure," he said. "We have a lot more work to do to make sure we have inclusive growth and our department is going to continue to share that vision long term.”

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.