Forum focuses on Gary job compliance
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent January 9, 2013 7:44PM
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:29AM
GARY — Contractors have to show a good faith effort in hiring locally for city, state and federal contracts, but compliance remains a key economic development tool for Gary, officials said Wednesday night.
Several hundred attendees heard Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and others at a job compliance forum hosted by the city at the Genesis Convention Center.
“No matter where the discussion (of compliance) gets started on this topic, it always ends on jobs,” the mayor said, adding the forum was aimed at “setting the record straight.”
Like training and skills development, compliance with local, state and federal contract requirements has been a topic of much discussion in and around the city. Jobs have been available, but getting out timely, accurate information on projects in the city and how to get that work is critical, speakers said.
Gary Corporation Counsel Niquelle Allen defined compliance as “a determination that a contractor has fulfilled” obligations laid out by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The biggest part of those requirements is demonstrating companies have made good faith efforts in their hiring and can document them. That also includes avoiding “underrepresentation,” or hiring a percentage of women and minorities that is significantly less than what’s available in the local workforce.
Federal contractors must show they tried to hire out at least 20.9 percent of work hours to minorities and 6.9 percent to women. Compliance with Indiana law requires 7 percent of work hours to state certified Minority Business Enterprises and 5 percent to certified Women Business Enterprises, Allen said.
In Gary, a local ordinance calls for two-thirds of workers on projects funded by Gary come from the city. Again, Allen said, contractors must show good faith in hiring.
Gary has had a mixed bag of compliance results. Officials overseeing the high-profile Marquette Park East development last year showed significant numbers of Gary people working on the dozens of projects associated with that effort, while other projects, like a federally funded sewer project in the Glen Ryan section had little local representation.
But no Gary companies bid on that project, Visclosky said.
He also said getting information to local contractors before contracts are awarded is important because “after contracts have been awarded, it’s not doing much good.”
For Bruce Hayes, the issue was much simpler. The Merrillville man lost his job with Hostess, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, in November after 20 years.
“I’m looking for work, so I have my ear on anything related to a job,” he said before the forum. “This is new to me, to be unemployed.”