Decertified as a minority contractor and derided as a front by local activists, Sam Hutchinson's Interface Materials Inc. has been exonerated

Sam Hutchinson is a minority again. Actually, Hutchinson's firm, Interface Materials Inc., had been decertified as a minority contractor by the St. Louis Development Corp. because of accusations that Interface was a "minority front" company bankrolled by white companies. SLDC had pointed to more than $600,000 in "loans" by white-run construction companies and the fact that Hutchinson, a black engineer who owns 51 percent of the company's stock, did not receive a salary, whereas the white man who owns 49 percent of the stock did.

But St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled Friday that Hutchinson had "impressive credentials" and was "the heart and soul of the enterprise as well as the brains." Hutchinson had contended that the $600,000 simply represented business affiliations with other companies, not outright loans ("White Out," RFT, July 14). The decertification of Interface by the city meant that the Missouri Department of Transportation did not have a minority contractor for the Interstate 70 expansion through North St. Louis. The Missouri Minority Contractors Association (MO-KAN) had organized a protest on July 12 in which more than 100 demonstrators blocked the highway.

The state negotiated with MO-KAN to arrive at a settlement, which includes the opening of a job-training center in North St. Louis. As for Interface Materials, the court order tells SLDC that the next time it distributes minority-business directories, Hutchinson's firm must be included. So, in this twisted world, MO-KAN's effort to boost minority contracting may just benefit the firm it targeted as a "front" company.

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