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City of Asheville department heads are meeting today to discuss the city’s Minority Business Program, although officials would not say what specifically will be discussed.

In an article published July 2, Carolina Public Press reported that city administrators are unable to tell whether Asheville’s Minority Business Program met its participation goals for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 because the required annual reports for those years have not been completed.

The Minority Business Program seeks to ensure that minority- and women-owned businesses have an equal opportunity with the city with regards to participating in construction, procurement and special services contracts.

Although the City of Asheville’s website lists the Minority Business Program as a part of the city’s Office of Economic Development, City Administrative Services Manager Brenda Mills said the program is part of the Office of Finance and Management Services.

The program has been without a coordinator since James Lee left the city of Asheville in June. Mills, who served as the program’s coordinator from 1998 to 2009, previously told Carolina Public Press that Lee left to pursue another employment opportunity and that his departure was unrelated to the issue of required reports not being filed.

According to the 2006 Minority Business Plan, the city manager ultimately is responsible for administration of the program. Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson’s office directed Carolina Public Press’ questions about the program to Mills.

Mills said she would not speak about current internal discussions about the Minority Business Program until the process is finished.

Mills did say future dialogue about the program would include focus groups of business owners and business development agencies like Mountain BizWorks.

Mountain BizWorks Regional Director Sharon Oxendine said she has worked with the city’s Minority Business Program in the past and that her only concern about the program is that its coordinator position doesn’t have enough support.

“That’s a one-person show over there,” Oxendine said. “In order for it to be effective as it could be, I really think there needs to be more support or more people for that position.”

Mills told Carolina Public Press in its July 2 article that administering the program was once the responsibility of multiple positions.

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Hank Shell is a contributing reporter and photographer with Carolina Public Press. Contact him at

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