Editorial: Cook Medical’s diversity commitment should be lesson for corporate Indiana

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Cook Medical’s construction of a $15 million factory in Indianapolis should be teaching all of corporate Indiana an important lesson: It’s not that difficult to find minority contractors to do the job.

That’s not to say it wasn’t hard for Cook and its general contractor, Harmon Construction Co., to reach the lofty goal of using only minority-owned businesses or other disadvantaged companies to build the structure.

As writer Barb Berggoetz points out in her story on page 1A, it took a lot of effort and coordination to make sure 100% of the contractors on the job were certified as minority- women-, veteran- or disability-owned companies.

But, in accomplishing that goal, Cook showed it shouldn’t be too arduous for companies and local and state governments to up their game—and make sure that the standard percentage of minority-owned contractors on major projects far exceeds today’s standard level of 15% to 20%.

The benefits of partnering with minority- and women-owned businesses are many:

 They bring innovation and creativity to the table because they often have to stand out against larger competitors. Their unique approaches also can save money.

 Their involvement can offer tax savings and other financial benefits through federal and state incentives.

 They can increase brand recognition and brand loyalty in communities where your business and products might not be well-known.

 They show clients, customers and constituents that diversity and inclusion are truly top priorities.

But, most important, raising up minority-owned businesses is America’s greatest hope in closing the nation’s economic racial divide and building more wealth in minority communities.

According to a recent presentation by the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, white households have eight times the wealth of Black households and five times that of Hispanic households.

In the construction industry, for example, many white-owned companies have built wealth over 100 years or more through many generations. But many Black-owned companies are only one generation in and need help to compete and to access capital.

Sadly, though, the current standard levels of involvement in construction projects and other ventures by minority-owned businesses are making little progress toward parity. In fact, at the current rate, it will take 333 years for minority-owned businesses to close the gap with white-owned ones, the Michigan council estimates.

That’s why it is calling for spending on minority-owned businesses to more than quadruple, allowing for parity in 15 years.

We don’t pretend to know exactly what the right number should be. But we know Indiana could be doing better.•


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One thought on “Editorial: Cook Medical’s diversity commitment should be lesson for corporate Indiana

  1. I think what Cook has done is fantastic. However, to be fair, it is able to operate without the constraints that many of Indiana’s publicly-traded companies must operate. This affords them flexibility that the public companies do not have.