Press Statements Dec. 29, 2009 Press Conference

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"Small Trucking Firms and Disadvantaged Business Call on President to Freeze North Carolina Department of Transportation Stimulus Funds and Federal Dollars Until North Carolina's Disadvantaged …

"Small Trucking Firms and Disadvantaged Business Call on President to Freeze North Carolina Department of Transportation Stimulus Funds and Federal Dollars Until North Carolina's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Addresses Noncompliance Issues

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  • 1. I am Carol Oduyoye, my husband and I are small business owners. My husband and children are here today. First, we would like to thank you for joining us today and demonstrating support for our small disadvantaged businesses. We represent the faces of many small, minority and disadvantaged businesses across this state. I believe we represent the voiceless, the unemployed, the construction laborers, the small trucking firms that find themselves homeless or wondering how they will make ends meet because payments for work performed and accepted were not released for periods extending out one year or greater. We have found ourselves defying political systems and battling to move public officials to enforce federal and state regulations designed to protect the rights of small disadvantaged businesses and affected families. Today, we stand here appealing to President Barack Obama, Governor Beverly Perdue, both of whom we have attempted to contact, and unfortunately we have not yet received a response. We are businesses that attempt to balance the responsibilities of providing jobs to sustain families; businesses fighting to prevent foreclosures; businesses that have provided a source of income to feed families and sustain a livelihood have come to the steps of our policymakers seeking help. Life for many of our families is far different today than twelve months ago. We have lost our businesses or live at a tipping point where we face threats of foreclosure and job losses. We thought working under contracts supported by state and federal dollars would presumably guarantee payment for work performed and accepted, we
  • 2. were wrong. We believed the opportunity to perform work under the North Carolina Page 2 Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration was a safe choice. We were wrong! As small and disadvantaged businesses, we have held on to state and federal policies geared toward providing payment for work performed and accepted. Today, we know that state and federal laws are often applied in a different manner for small, disadvantaged and minority owned firms. We also realize there are few opportunities from which families can draw when we have no jobs. We stand here today with hopes that our President, our Governor and other public officials will choose to extend a life line to the small, disadvantaged and minority owned trucking and construction businesses. We call upon our leadership to take the road less traveled. Help us. We rendered a service, we want and deserve to be paid. to small, disadvantaged and minority owned firms. Your policies and programs are linked to the survival of our businesses and our families. We believe this state, this country has a responsibility to make a bold choice. You have an opportunity to develop, implement and enforce policies and programs using strategies that ensure greater inclusion. We have held on to policies and programs geared to the control of a few but not to the freedom and full access of all communities Federal, state and local failures to enforce laws dealt a harsh blow to the hopes and opportunities for many small businesses here today. Many of us have felt diminished and ignored. Little has been done by federal, state and local
  • 3. Page 3 officials to right the wrongs, to correct systemic violations and abuses of laws affecting subcontractors and disadvantaged businesses through our personal experiences in recent months. But, we cannot see a conclusion to the vision that propelled us to become small business owners. We are unwilling to abandon our businesses. We should not be required to abandon our businesses, that is not a decision left to the North Carolina Department of Transportation or other public entities. As small businesses, we have no intention of quitting, or giving up, or failing to provide for our families and communities. We committed to own businesses and are desperately holding on. Mr. President, Governor Perdue, where are the principles on which this country was founded. We stand here because we need your help. Mr. President, Governor Perdue, public officials we ask you to stand by us. Finally, we ask you to contact Governor Perdue, President Obama and other public Officials requesting a freeze on all federal funds to the North Carolina Department of Transportation and proactive support for small, disadvantaged and minority owned trucking and construction businesses.
  • 4. Good Morning. I am Gerard Heller, owner of a small trucking business. I extend appreciation to all who support small and disadvantaged businesses and families. I wear the face of the many fathers, grandfathers and sons across our state - men who dared to nurture small businesses and believed we could provide for families and support communities. I am the father of two sons and the voice for the thousands of men and women who believed in the laws of our state and country. I have come to know firsthand what it means to find oneself dealing with the failures of our system and a sense of abandonment and loss. Several months ago I engaged a contract to haul dirt on a federally funded airport project in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. That project has taken me on a journey that enriched my understanding of the struggles articulated by many small, minority and disadvantaged businesses confronted with nonpayment and slow payment for work performed. Through this journey I have grown in awareness and sensitivity. I have come to understand the relentless battles with state, local and federal officials who promise to monitor and enforce policies affecting subcontracts and public projects. Through this journey I have come face to face with communities and people who have become too familiar with fear and paralyzed by loss of their businesses and families. The recent months have been a series of defining moments where fear and hopelessness were continuously present. I have witnessed desperation and now know what it is to feel dismissed, powerless and
  • 5. Press Statement by Gerard Heller Page 2 marginalized by the systems in which I had always believed and supported. My company provides jobs for fathers and grandfathers. We followed all of the conservative business practices and through no fault of my company, nor any of my employees – we find ourselves in the midst of state, local, federal and contractual disputes and unable to provide for our families. The manner in which federal, state and local officials choose to address policy noncompliances, survival of small businesses and job losses among small, disadvantaged and minority businesses will surely determine who and what we are as leaders in this country. I believe the moments ahead will test who and what we are as one community – not fractions or parts of the whole, separated and polarized by race, gender, ethnicity, income… As small businesses and small trucking firms – we have lived through challenges and grasped an understanding of what it means to be marginalized by the systems around us. We are the wiser as a result of our experiences and desire a better and brighter future for our children and families. We know the desires and dreams of our workers and neighbors who attempt to provide for families. We ask our Governor and President Obama to hear our voices and understand that we are also stakeholders in building tomorrow’s bridges of hope and success. We are speaking to you. We desire to be meaningful and respected contributors in our communities, not bystanders accepting policy and practices defined for us.
  • 6. Press Statement by Gerard Heller Page 3 President Obama, Governor Perdue, elected officials – many of you spoke of transformation. You spoke of inclusion and opportunity. You spoke of policies and programs that stepped outside the boundaries of the current system. Many citizens of this state believed you. We understand that we face change. However, success cannot be realized for a fraction of the state while others perish. Finally, I ask you to join us in requesting an independent and federal investigation of North Carolina’s Department of Transportation, Smith-Reynolds Airport and freezing of all federal dollars to the North Carolina Department of Transportation until the Disadvantaged Business Program undergoes a full investigation by neutral and independent investigators. We further ask that you contact your legislators, U.S Senators and Congresspersons, Governor Beverly Perdue, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the Office of the President requesting support for small, disadvantaged and minority- owned trucking and construction businesses; enforcement of federal and state laws affecting subcontractors; and, greater inclusion in contract awards.