Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: Remodeling Charlotte, one contract at a time



When the Democratic National Convention Committee pointed businesses to, Robyn Hamilton, host committee director of business relations, called it the “go-to mechanism” for anyone who wanted to get involved or sign into its vendor directory. Now that Democratic National Convention Committee officials have awarded $7 million in convention-related contracts, that site is where local businesses can go for subcontracting opportunities.

There should be plenty of them, as partnerships of local and out-of-state companies work to modify and restore Time Warner Cable Arena for next September’s convention and provide services for staff and media using the Charlotte Convention Center.

On Tuesday, convention CEO Steve Kerrigan said the firms represent “the best of the Carolinas and the diversity of America.” Kerrigan said local employment was “a priority,” and emphasized the DNC’s record of working with women, minority and disability-owned businesses and union labor, but said it didn’t “set quotas.” He called Mayor Anthony Foxx — who was close by during the announcement at the arena — a “great ally to have.”

The construction manager will be a partnership among Charlotte-based Rodgers Builders, Inc., Hunt Construction Group, which built the arena, and Atlanta-based H.J. Russell and Company, the country’s fourth-largest minority owned business. Rodgers president and CEO Pat Rodgers said there would be mentoring opportunities to get young people involved.

The event architect contract will be a partnership between Populous and Neighboring Concepts of Charlotte, a minority-owned company that has partnered on projects such as the Gantt center and the LYNX Blue Line. Hargrove, Inc. is partnering with Charlotte-based McFarland Corbitt as exposition and event services provider.

The participation of union labor and minority businesses will be a continuing subject of discussion and scrutiny as contracts are awarded. Last week, South Carolina’s Democratic Congressman James Clyburn — in town for a Congressional Black Caucus event — told me after he toured the arena that one reason the CBC visited Charlotte was to make sure diverse businesses are part of the process and that everyone “had a fair chance.”

On Wednesday, Scott Stone, the businessman who is Foxx’s GOP opponent in the fall mayoral race, was scheduled to hold a press conference outside the convention host committee headquarters to question the role of union labor in contracts. In a letter to host committee chair Dan Murrey and copied to Foxx, dated Oct. 26, Stone said he and "fellow citizens across Charlotte…remain troubled by the provision of the contracts which require all vendors sign a Project Labor Agreement.

"For the good of our city and to ensure transparency within this process, I am formally and respectfully requesting that the DNC Host Committee release a copy of any and all Project Labor Agreements that vendors will be required to sign," Stone's letter continued. "Charlotteans are proud to live and work in a Right to Work state. However, Project Labor Agreements, like the one the DNC will require, can often set dangerous requirements which push workers toward unions, increase costs, or make it more difficult for local employees to participate in the projects.”

The next big contract — in case anyone is interested in putting in a bid — is to provide “housing services,” with details at the Democratic convention website. Due date for a proposal is Nov. 8.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Root, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 on TV’s Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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