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Competitors join together to attract business

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
August 28, 2012

This story was written by KOSU’s Quinton Chandler.

You may remember Aesop’s fable about the unbreakable bundle of sticks and the lone stick all too easy to snap in half. I remembered the story when I spoke to Jesse Orange about the Minority Trucking Cooperative and how it will make black truckers more competitive in today’s market.

“What we discovered in evaluating ourselves is that when a potential client called and needed five trucks he would have to call five different owner operators. With the Minority trucking Cooperation he could make one call and get as many trucks as he needs.”

Jesse is the executive director for the Co-op.

“I’ve been working in construction for over 50 years, started out hauling, I’ve built highways, roads, bridges.”

He says, for the past year it’s focused on African Americans.

“We don’t feel like the industry looks down and says, this is a black guy we’re not going to hire him. But we do feel that because of the problems involved in hiring these owner operator companies it’s not financially feasible for the major contractors to do business with them.”

This is Oklahoma’s first coop for minority truckers.

“Now I was with the Department of Transportation for approximately 20 years. I travelled to all of the states and we looked at their programs probably four or five times a year. So I feel qualified that I can say this is the first time that anything like this has been tried.”

Jesse says the unique thing about this Co-op is it’s partnership with the Department of Transportation. Susan McClune is with the Department and she says the program didn’t start with Jesse.

“The program came about through Langston University and Wilson Brewer. Wilson is their lead investigator in their research area.”

Brewer chose not to be interviewed, but he told me he did the  research to see if the Co-op’s business model was sound. He crunched the numbers, made the calls, and decided it would work smoothly with the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program.

“The DBE program is a federal program and a certain percentage of our federal aid highway funds go to minority and women owned businesses and these are firms that actually perform work on highway projects.”

Susan says there’s no way to know whether black truckers have more trouble getting work than say Native Americans. She says they all have an equal standing in the DBE program, but owner/operators are disadvantaged because they usually only have one to three trucks, when contractors usually want 15 to 30.

“By combining their resources they can be very competitive when they’re bidding with the prime contractors. That way they can provide the 15 to 30 trucks.”

It all sounds good, I’m thinking now these truckers are pooling their resources they must be getting jobs left and right.

“No not a one…. Not a one it goes by bid process… Individuals are working now but the cooperation hasn’t received a job the bid letting is once a month and sometimes two times a month. And you never know. It may be the next letting that we get a job that may last two years.”

Susan thinks it’s just a matter of time.

“It’s still a little bit early. Their trying to still kind of work out the kinks about whose going to do the bidding and estimating and how their going to administer contracts, but I think their probably real close to starting to bid jobs.”

For now, the truckers work separately, but Jesse foresees a bright future.

“I think we’ll be a major company, because we can perform services as a major company and with the infrastructure being rebuilt all over the state of Oklahoma, as we move forward I can see no reason why we won’t be a very successful company.”

But, he made it clear; the coop’s members aren’t looking for charity or special treatment from contractors.

“We just want to work and if we work and be paid we’ll be satisfied.”

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