Press Statements Dec. 29, 2009 Press Conference
"Small Trucking Firms and Disadvantaged Business Call on President to Freeze North Carolina Department of Transportation Stimulus Funds and Federal Dollars Until North Carolina's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Addresses Noncompliance Issues
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Press Statements Dec. 29, 2009 Press Conference
I am Carol Oduyoye, my husband and I are small business owners. My husband and
children are here today.
First, we would like to thank you for joining us today and demonstrating support for
our small disadvantaged businesses. We represent the faces of many small, minority and
disadvantaged businesses across this state. I believe we represent the voiceless, the
unemployed, the construction laborers, the small trucking firms that find themselves
homeless or wondering how they will make ends meet because payments for work
performed and accepted were not released for periods extending out one year or greater.
We have found ourselves defying political systems and battling to move public officials
to enforce federal and state regulations designed to protect the rights of small
disadvantaged businesses and affected families. Today, we stand here appealing to
President Barack Obama, Governor Beverly Perdue, both of whom we have attempted to
contact, and unfortunately we have not yet received a response. We are businesses that
attempt to balance the responsibilities of providing jobs to sustain families; businesses
fighting to prevent foreclosures; businesses that have provided a source of income to feed
families and sustain a livelihood have come to the steps of our policymakers seeking
Life for many of our families is far different today than twelve months ago.
We have lost our businesses or live at a tipping point where we face threats of foreclosure
and job losses. We thought working under contracts supported by state and federal
dollars would presumably guarantee payment for work performed and accepted, we
were wrong. We believed the opportunity to perform work under the North Carolina
Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration was a safe choice.
We were wrong! As small and disadvantaged businesses, we have held on to state and
federal policies geared toward providing payment for work performed and
accepted. Today, we know that state and federal laws are often applied in a different
manner for small, disadvantaged and minority owned firms. We also realize
there are few opportunities from which families can draw when we have no
We stand here today with hopes that our President, our Governor and other
public officials will choose to extend a life line to the small, disadvantaged and minority
owned trucking and construction businesses. We call upon our leadership to take the
road less traveled. Help us. We rendered a service, we want and deserve to be paid.
to small, disadvantaged and minority owned firms. Your policies and programs are
linked to the survival of our businesses and our families. We believe this state, this
country has a responsibility to make a bold choice. You have an opportunity to develop,
implement and enforce policies and programs using strategies that ensure greater
inclusion. We have held on to policies and programs geared to the control of a few but
not to the freedom and full access of all communities
Federal, state and local failures to enforce laws dealt a harsh blow to the hopes and
opportunities for many small businesses here today. Many of us have felt
diminished and ignored. Little has been done by federal, state and local
officials to right the wrongs, to correct systemic violations and abuses of laws affecting
subcontractors and disadvantaged businesses through our personal experiences in recent
months. But, we cannot see a conclusion to the vision that propelled us to become small
business owners. We are unwilling to abandon our businesses. We should not be
required to abandon our businesses, that is not a decision left to the North Carolina
Department of Transportation or other public entities. As small businesses, we have
no intention of quitting, or giving up, or failing to provide for our families and
communities. We committed to own businesses and are desperately holding on.
Mr. President, Governor Perdue, where are the principles on which this country was
founded. We stand here because we need your help.
Mr. President, Governor Perdue, public officials we ask you to stand by us.
Finally, we ask you to contact Governor Perdue, President Obama and other public
Officials requesting a freeze on all federal funds to the North Carolina Department of
Transportation and proactive support for small, disadvantaged and minority owned
trucking and construction businesses.
Good Morning. I am Gerard Heller, owner of a small trucking business. I extend
appreciation to all who support small and disadvantaged businesses and families.
I wear the face of the many fathers, grandfathers and sons across our state - men who
dared to nurture small businesses and believed we could provide for families and support
communities. I am the father of two sons and the voice for the thousands of men and
women who believed in the laws of our state and country. I have come to know firsthand
what it means to find oneself dealing with the failures of our system and a sense of
abandonment and loss.
Several months ago I engaged a contract to haul dirt on a federally funded airport project
in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. That project has taken me on a journey that enriched
my understanding of the struggles articulated by many small, minority and disadvantaged
businesses confronted with nonpayment and slow payment for work performed. Through
this journey I have grown in awareness and sensitivity. I have come to understand the
relentless battles with state, local and federal officials who promise to monitor and
enforce policies affecting subcontracts and public projects. Through this journey I have
come face to face with communities and people who have become too familiar with fear
and paralyzed by loss of their businesses and families. The recent months have been a
series of defining moments where fear and hopelessness were continuously present.
I have witnessed desperation and now know what it is to feel dismissed, powerless and
Press Statement by Gerard Heller
marginalized by the systems in which I had always believed and supported.
My company provides jobs for fathers and grandfathers. We followed all of the
conservative business practices and through no fault of my company, nor any of my
employees – we find ourselves in the midst of state, local, federal and contractual
disputes and unable to provide for our families.
The manner in which federal, state and local officials choose to address policy
noncompliances, survival of small businesses and job losses among small, disadvantaged
and minority businesses will surely determine who and what we are as leaders in this
country. I believe the moments ahead will test who and what we are as one community –
not fractions or parts of the whole, separated and polarized by race, gender, ethnicity,
income… As small businesses and small trucking firms – we have lived through
challenges and grasped an understanding of what it means to be marginalized by the
systems around us. We are the wiser as a result of our experiences and desire a better and
brighter future for our children and families. We know the desires and dreams of our
workers and neighbors who attempt to provide for families.
We ask our Governor and President Obama to hear our voices and understand that we are
also stakeholders in building tomorrow’s bridges of hope and success. We are speaking
to you. We desire to be meaningful and respected contributors in our communities, not
bystanders accepting policy and practices defined for us.
Press Statement by Gerard Heller
President Obama, Governor Perdue, elected officials – many of you spoke of
transformation. You spoke of inclusion and opportunity. You spoke of policies and
programs that stepped outside the boundaries of the current system. Many citizens of this
state believed you. We understand that we face change. However, success cannot be
realized for a fraction of the state while others perish.
Finally, I ask you to join us in requesting an independent and federal investigation of
North Carolina’s Department of Transportation, Smith-Reynolds Airport and freezing of
all federal dollars to the North Carolina Department of Transportation until the
Disadvantaged Business Program undergoes a full investigation by neutral and
independent investigators. We further ask that you contact your legislators, U.S
Senators and Congresspersons, Governor Beverly Perdue, Attorney General Roy Cooper
and the Office of the President requesting support for small, disadvantaged and minority-
owned trucking and construction businesses; enforcement of federal and state laws
affecting subcontractors; and, greater inclusion in contract awards.