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State Spending Disparities Are Decades Old. Why Hasn’t The Easy Solution Been Activated?

State agencies spend billions each year on everything from building construction to office supplies...but minority-owned have been consistently excluded.
State agencies spend billions each year on everything from building construction to office supplies...but minority-owned have been consistently excluded.

North Carolina taxpayers channel billions of dollars into state agencies every year — agencies that, in turn, spend that money with private businesses in the state for anything from building construction to office supplies. But not every business benefits from the state dollars. 

Host Anita Rao talks with Triangle Business Journal staff writer Seth Gulledge about decades-long state spending disparities.

Historically underutilized businesses — businesses that are at least 51% owned by a person in a racial minority, a socially and economically disadvantaged person, a woman or a person with a disability — have been left out of state spending for two decades. A 1999 executive order signed by then-Gov. Jim Hunt stated that the state should spend at least 10% of its money with these businesses, known as HUBs. But in 2019, HUBs only accounted for 5.2% of the state’s spending on goods and services.

The state has met its 10% goal in the construction spending category because of legislation that mandates the goal. No such mandate exists for the goods and services sector, and state officials have wavered on passing one even as spending leaves HUBs behind.

Host Anita Rao talks with Seth Gulledge, staff writer for the Triangle Business Journal, about his analysis of state spending and why minority-owned businesses have missed out on billions of dollars.

Copyright 2020 North Carolina Public Radio

Anita Rao is the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content. She has traveled the country recording interviews for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department, founded and launched a podcast about millennial feminism in the South, and served as the managing editor and regular host of "The State of Things," North Carolina Public Radio's flagship daily, live talk show. Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest.
Kaia Findlay is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show. Kaia grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a household filled with teachers and storytellers. In elementary school, she usually fell asleep listening to recordings of 1950s radio comedy programs. After a semester of writing for her high school newspaper, she decided she hated journalism. While pursuing her bachelor’s in environmental studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, she got talked back into it. Kaia received a master’s degree from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism, where she focused on reporting and science communication. She has published stories with Our State Magazine, Indy Week, and HuffPost. She most recently worked as the manager for a podcast on environmental sustainability and higher education. Her reporting passions include climate and the environment, health and science, food and women’s issues. When not working at WUNC, Kaia goes pebble-wrestling, takes long bike rides, and reads while hammocking.