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Marriott to hire minority businesses

Published Sep. 13, 2005

After negotiating for two years with a national community action group, Marriott International Inc. has agreed to issue contracts to eight St. Petersburg minority vendors to provide a variety of services ranging from printing to security to real estate.

The agreement is only the beginning of what will be a broadening program, Marriott officials said.

The announcement was made during a Tuesday night meeting of Congregations United For Community Action, a 6-year-old grass-roots organization of 37 local religious groups.

Mayor David Fischer, Marriott officials and a representative from National People's Action, an alliance of community groups around the country, were on hand for the announcement at Moore's Chapel AME Church, 3027 Fairfield Ave. S.

"I am excited, and I think they are too," said Jaci Feldman, project director for the National Training and Information Center, a sister organization of National People's Action.

"Now we can take the whole vendor project around the country," she said.

The contracts, which will be signed with African-American vendors in 60 days, is the first of its kind between a community group and Marriott, Feldman said.

"We are looking at this being a beginning to bringing more vendors to really service the needs of the Marriott in the Tampa Bay area and this region," said Abdul Karim Ali, a CUCA board member.

The vendors are Chaslo Merchandise and Printing Corp., owner Lorian Williams; True-Coat Enterprises Inc., owner Mekal S. Haneff; Murray Enterprises LLG, indoor environment and research technology, owner Damon Murray; Betty J. Dyles Realty Inc., owner Betty Dyles; Sunny Sky and Sons, general cleaning and floor specialists, owners Kent and Shirley Morgan Jr.; Plastering and Stucco Building and Repair, dry finishing and repair, owner M.D. Wilson; Touraco Security International Inc., chief executive officer Calvin Forehand; and Sims Automotive Batteries, owner Cornell Sims.

Members of National People's Action first approached Marriott in 1996, asking the corporation to provide jobs and economic development opportunities in low-income communities.

"They were located all over the country," Feldman said. "Everyone thought they were only hotels. They were doing the food for our kids. At the time, they didn't have a real good reputation for working with community groups."

Initially, Marriott officials refused to meet with community group members, Feldman said.

"We had sent letters to both Marriott brothers, and we had asked to meet with any of their higher-up folks who would make this happen," Feldman said.

Negotiations did not begin until community groups from around the country marched on Marriott's Bethesda, Md., headquarters in April 1996. The corporation, which officials describe as the world's largest hospitality and food service provider, since has established programs to work with young people in Hartford, Conn., and San Antonio, Texas, and hired about 500 adults from targeted communities around the nation.

Besides the vendors agreement, Marriott also plans to hold a job fair at Eckerd College within a month to recruit residents in St. Petersburg's low-income to moderate income neighborhoods.

"I think it shows that when the common people come together and have a vehicle that can work with them, train them, empower them _ that vehicle is CUCA _ we can see benefits from that," Ali said. "The same thing applies on a national level."

In the Tampa Bay area, Marriott owns hotels, and provides food service for facilities such as the Florida Aquarium and hospitals.