Black Contractors File Bias Suit Against Toyota

Denise Stewart, Los Angeles Sentinel, April 27, 2009

Fish & Fisher, a black-owned general contractor in Jackson, Mississippi, hauled more than 1 million cubic tons of dirt to make way for a new Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., and also helped expand the Jackson-Evers International Airport.

But when it came time to hand out the big contracts for construction of a new Toyota plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi in 2007, Fish & Fisher says it was left out of the process.

Fish & Fisher has filed a federal lawsuit in Mississippi, claiming racial discrimination in the bid process for the Toyota plant. The company is seeking unspecified damages in the suit that also names as defendants Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority.

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“If we had had an opportunity, we absolutely would have bid on the project, but we weren’t given that opportunity,” Fish & Fisher co-owner Jacqueline Williams told BlackAmericaweb.com. “They invited only five companies to bid. At a time when the state gave $300 million in incentives to bring the plant to Mississippi, they still only allowed certain insiders to bid.”

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To bid as general contractor, a company must have annual sales four times above the value of the Toyota project, McDaniel said.

Williams said Fish & Fisher met the requirements for minority company participation with Toyota because it is certified by the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Byron Perkins, a Birmingham, Alabama lawyer representing Fish & Fisher, said the exclusion of that company from the bid process is something that happens all too often to black-owned businesses.

“This practice is still rampant, and it’s time for it to stop,” Perkins told BlackAmericaweb.com.

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McDaniel said Toyota is one of only 14 companies in the United States to be a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable, a designation given to companies who spend at least $1 billion annually with diverse suppliers and demonstrate a strong overall commitment to supplier diversity.

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