City of Peoria Equity programs looks to make minority, women-owned businesses more visible

A city work assists Tate and Sons owner Johnnie Jones registers for the Peoria Equity...
A city work assists Tate and Sons owner Johnnie Jones registers for the Peoria Equity Accountability Program.(WEEK)
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 5:36 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Any small business owner will tell you, getting your business out there is the toughest, but most vital, part of being successful.

“It’s absolutely important,” World on Wheels Segway Tours of Peoria owner Lynette Lee said.

Some advertising requires legwork, like networking, getting out flyers and advertisements. Securing large, government contracts, like the city of Peoria requires extra connections and visibility. To help get minority and women-owned businesses on the city’s radar, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion created the Peoria Equity Accountability Program. It creates a database of minority and women-owned businesses where one of those parties owns half or more of the business.

The city wants to get more contractors on the list, so that public projects and contracts can utilize minority business.

For owners like Johnnie Jones of Tate and Sons Flooring and Cleaning, that means getting their business in front of the city. Tate and Sons does all forms of industrial and commercial cleaning, like waxing floors and deep cleaning carpets. Jones said they have some commercial contracts and a few residential customers.

“We’re still a new business, we’re growing,” Jones said. Business is good for him. He’s inside the incubator at the Minority Business Development Center in Peoria. Many of the entrepreneurs signing up for the database today had ties to MBDC and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Not all the business signing up for the database are contractors, however. City workers helping with sign up said they’ve been seeing all types of businesses get on the directory and they’re all at different stages of ownership.

Lee’s touring business has been leading bike and Segway tours on the riverfront for 15 years. She believes visibility and networking is vital, not just for drawing in new customers, but connecting with other businesses in the area as well.

She signed her business up for the registry to get even more eyes on her services.

“Even though we’ve been in business for quite some time there are people in the city who still say ‘oh, we don’t know anything about you, we didn’t even know you were here,’” Lee said.

On the other end of the spectrum, Shelia Marshall is opening her storefront Saturday. She’s been making flavored popcorn for 13 years. It started as a hobby in her home, but now she’s making it a full-fledged venture.

She’s excited to open up Saturday. She registered for the list to get her name out there even more, beside the flyers and word of mouth advertising she’s been trying to do.

While popcorn and bike tours don’t seem like services the city will utilize, Chief Diversity Officer Melodi Green said they want all sorts of businesses to apply. The database will be made available to the public and, she argues, you never know what the city might need.

Marshall feels her products could be used for corporate gifts or events. Lee could see her bike rentals being used for city events or team-building exercises.

“Even if you think you have a service or a product that may not be purchased by the city, you still want to register on this list,” Christell Frausto said. She was there to translate for Spanish-speaking business owners. She is an entrepreneur herself as the owner of TequilaRia wine and spirits.

Having a list isn’t the end-all, be-all, however. The city needs to utilize the list as well. Green said she’s been taking steps to monitor the city’s contracting process. This business directory can act as a guide to make sure contractors are sub-contracting out to minority businesses.

“We’d like to eventually have some mechanism for going ‘okay, did you consult the PeAP list when you were trying to fill the terms of this contract?’” Green said.

For businesses, they feel it’s opening a door for them to enter the community.

“It creates a lane for you,” Jones said. “It creates a lane for us and that’s what we’re excited about. All we need is an open door, and once we come in our work speaks for itself.”

The ripple affects feed into the community as well. More business means more employees. Tate and Sons tries hiring former convicts or applicants with a history that would otherwise disqualify them.

“Where a door closes for somebody else in another arena, Tate and Sons will open up an opportunity for employment,” Jones said.

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