Thursday, September 14, 2006

DMI Forum

Next Monday the Drum Major Institute is holding a forum on the issue of accountable development. This is, as we have seen in the controversies over the BTM and Yankee Stadium (and Shea as well), an issue of the highest important to the economic well-being of the city. We have been asked to join with the DMI and offer our thoughts on the accountability issue from the standpoint of small business.

As we have commented before, the issue of accountable development strikes at the heart of politics and the role of major real estate firms in the political process. Now we don't go all Jack Newfield on this issue because we realize that industries that drive the economy and create jobs will always have the pole position when it comes to the old poli sci favorite question: "Who gets what, when. where and how?

What makes this particularly intriguing, however, is that fact that there are so many times when the largesse being given out comes at the direct expense of less well situated small businesses. This was especially true with the eviction of the BTM merchants. The Related Companies were given the whole enchilada in a sweetheart deal while EDC basically gave the merchants moving money to get out of town.

Which is the key point: the real estate machers move in the same circles and express the same values as the key economic development decision makers. From this perspective, the merchants at the Terminal Market were ghetto bottom feeders whose interest was of no account. The value of minority owned small businesses is egregiously overlooked in the process.

The same holds true when public bidding is being done. Larger firms are able to retain the best lobbyists and PR folks to advance their cause early on. Others may not even be aware of the opportunity until it's too late. Here's where the Bloombergistas have been most off the mark. The outreach effort to minority business has been a second fiddle operation at best. What we're saying is that transparency needs to be in place all throughout the development process and not just right after a deal is being negotiated.