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The Black Contractors Group at odds with Sherwin-Williams over contracts for $600 million Cleveland project

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 10:59 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Sherwin-Williams Company with a 155-year history in Cleveland is prepared to break ground on a new world headquarters downtown while facing criticism from The Black Contractors Group.

Black contractors have claimed Sherwin-Williams has failed to select a Black-owned firm as one of the lead companies to build the $600 million facilities.

But Sherwin-Williams said they are in the process of making those decisions right now.

Charles Steele, Jr. the President and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, co-founded by Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. has stepped in to support Cleveland’s Black Contractors, “The report we have received from my office is that Sherwin-Williams is not working with the African-American community in terms of contracts.”

Sherwin-Williams, which is in the second phase of a third phase design process, could break ground by the end of 2021 and have employees in the 36-story world headquarters by 2024.

But, Black contractors claim their promised share of the pie has already been fed to someone else.

“We have a campaign that’s called from ‘The Streets to the Suites – Dinner with Racism within Corporate America.’I have extended an invitation to the Chairman and President of the board of the company. So, we can start a dialogue. But I haven’t heard anything yet,” Steele said.

A statement issued by The Sherwin-Williams Company to 19 News said:

“The Sherwin-Williams Company has long been committed to inclusion, diversity and equity, and we have extended this commitment to our Building Our Future project. Since the very beginning of this project, we have been intentional and strategic in our approach to include minority-owned, female-owned and small business partners on a broad spectrum of project activities and functions.

We are currently in the process of awarding contracts to minority-owned businesses for several different roles including the minority construction management role. We look forward to announcing these partnerships soon once contracts are fully agreed upon and signed.

We are highly disappointed and surprised by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s recent statement, which ignores our inclusive approach and is uninformed by the facts. We are proud to discuss the robust process we have in place and the opportunities for minority-owned firms to participate in this project. We have received positive feedback about our strategic approach, our inclusion of partners early in the process, our ongoing communications and our desire to support local organizations.

We continue to work proactively with community, city, county and state leaders, organizations and trade partners, with a clearly defined process on how minority-owned firms can participate in our project. We have collaborated with the City of Cleveland, the City of Brecksville, Cuyahoga County, the State of Ohio and the Port Authority, to establish and publish goals for inclusion, diversity and equity, community engagement and community participation related to our projects. We are committed to meeting or exceeding those goals.

Sherwin-Williams has been recognized by Forbes as one of America’s best employers for diversity, new grads and women since 2019. We fully expect the momentum of our efforts to continue.

Additional details about our project including our commitment to inclusion and diversity and our community engagement process can be found on our Building Our Future website.”

But Black contractors and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference accuse companies like Sherwin-Williams of allegedly short-changing minority contractors by using techniques they will no longer stand for.

“There are many companies that just use individuals that might be a person of color instead of they are minorities and giving them the contract,” Steele said.

A demonstration will be held on Tuesday by the Black Contractors and the SCLC out of Atlanta at the future site.

Sherwin-Williams says they look forward to announcing their minority partnerships as soon as the contracts are approved and signed.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the date of the Black Contractors’ demonstration. The demonstration will be Tuesday. We regret the error.

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