Baker to NAACP: 'Don't be bashful'

York County's new manager intends to keep a close eye on efforts to hire minority-owned firms to do county business. But Jim Baker told local NAACP leaders on Tuesday that he also needs their help.

In a 45-minute meeting with NAACP activists from across the county, Baker said he wants his office to maintain "a culture such that everybody feels welcome" in applying for jobs.

"If you're disappointed and don't think we're doing what we ought to be doing, let me know," Baker said. "Don't be bashful. I don't think you will."

Steve Love, president of the western York County NAACP, requested the meeting to talk to Baker about why improvements are needed. Minority-owned businesses received $7,871 in contracts from the county in 2004-2005, figures from the county purchasing office show.

Thirty-four minority-owned businesses have registered to be considered for bids on jobs, which can include anything from landscaping to catering services.

The figures show that three were awarded contracts in 2004-2005. Love says that rate needs to get better in a county where blacks comprise 20 percent of the population and the annual budget exceeds $260 million.

"We're actually just excited to just have a list of minority-owned businesses that you all are looking at," said Herb Crump, president of the Rock Hill NAACP chapter. "The next step is to use them."

Baker asked the NAACP to keep him informed of ways to advertise job openings and contracts, such as newsletters and radio shows with strong minority audiences.

"It's important to train them so they can get in here and compete with other businesses," Baker said. "The more people we can bring to the table, the better it is for the county."

In judging the county's success, Baker said he wants to look at how many minorities are in a company's entire work force, not just whether the owner or director is a minority.

The two sides agreed to talk again in 30 days after Baker has more time to review the county's programs and policies.