"Why Public Procurement Is a Civil Rights Issue"

by Oscar Perry Abello in Next City

There’s a battle for Atlanta going on right now — for its airport, specifically. Citing corruption and waste, the Republican-led, majority-white state legislature in Georgia wants to wrest control of the airport’s operations away from the Democrat-dominated, predominantly-black Atlanta government. The world’s busiest airport for 21 years running, Hartsfield-Jackson International is worth an estimated $34 billion in economic impact on the Atlanta metropolitan area, and $70 billion overall across the state of Georgia.

But the airport’s real impact is much deeper than just dollar signs, and it goes beyond just Atlanta or Georgia. The project steered public procurement contracts to minority-owned firms — one of the first major projects to do so successfully. This requirement inspired other projects and other cities to do the same, but also sparked a backlash against such programs that continues through today.

Rodney K. Strong has been through all the backlash, first as Atlanta’s director of contract compliance, and then as a principal at his law and consulting firm, Griffin & Strong.

“The person who put it best was James Brown,” says Strong. “It’s just living in America.”