Civil Rights Groups Say 20 Percent Minority Business Participation For New KCI Won't Cut It

Sep 13, 2017

Anita Russell (left), Gwen Grant, and Kelvin Perry are part of a consortium of civil rights and minority groups calling on the city to reject Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate as the company to build a new terminal at KCI.
Credit Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Updated at 4:25 with comments from Edgemoor Managing Director Geoff Stricker. 

A conglomeration of Kansas City civil rights groups and minority business organizations is calling on the city council to reject the selection of Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate to build and finance a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport — unless they double their goals for minority business participation.

"Our comparison of AECOM, Burns & McDonnell and Edgemoor proposals revealed that Edgemoor’s application fell woefully short on MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) participation goals," says Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. 

The Urban League, along with the Kansas City chapters of the NAACP, the Black Chamber of Commerce, Black United Front, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Urban Summit and the Committee to Abolish Poverty — collectively called the KCI Airport Urban Consortium — said unless the council agrees to their terms they'll withhold support for the terminal project. 

In its proposal, Edgemoor stated a goal of 20 percent MBE participation. The consortium wants that number to be 40 percent. 

"Many of our residents in the African American community will not be users of the airport," says Anita Russell, vice president of the Kansas City Chapter of the NAACP. "So for a project of this magnitude to come to this city, there has to be a benefit for those persons that will be voting … the only way that can happen will be through the MBE and workforce participation.”

Grant says that throughout the bidding process, the other proposers reached out to minority businesses and organizations in Kansas City to explore opportunities for participation.

“Edgemoor has been here, they were a bidder. We have not heard from them,” she said.

Still, she says the consortium would be open to working with the firm on these issues should Edgemoor’s leadership reach out.

“We are here to promote and foster equity and inclusion on this project for the communities we serve. It would not be in our best interest to shun Edgemoor,” Grant says.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Edgemoor Managing Director Geoff Stricker says his team was following the targets that city put forward in the RFQ/P and would be happy to discuss new goals for minority and women-owned businesses.

"We have a very open and collaborative approach to this process and we would be happy to — and are in the process of — trying to set up a meeting with the folks who called for different goals than the city has put forward. So we would welcome the opportunity to sit down with them and understand their issues and concerns," Stricker says. 

Grant says African American and Hispanic communities have a history of supporting development in Kansas City, but the impact of that development hasn’t be spread equitably among disadvantaged communities.

She says the 40 percent goal isn’t just an arbitrary number — that’s a level that could actually transform communities of color.

“It will grow African American and Latino owned businesses, it will create wealth in minority communities, it will create jobs for people, livable wage jobs for people. It will leave this community on a much better socio-economic footing after the project is completed,” she says.  

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. She’s on Twitter @larodrig.