MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Pastors, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, are demanding more city contracts be awarded to minority businesses.
They city said it is trying, but it is also running into road blocks.
"We promise to do even more, this is not a publicity stunt," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. "We mean business."
Strickland said he has always had a plan to increase minority contracts in the city even before Jackson demanded 50 percent of the contracts go to minority-owned businesses.
But, Jackson isn't the only one calling for change.
"We are 68 percent of the population in Memphis and we want more," Bishop Elynn Brown said.
Strickland said he is vowing to increase the number of minority-owned businesses receiving contracts.
However, the city admits, the 50 percent demanded by Jackson and others could be tough--at least right now.
City leaders said Friday that federal law prevents them from issuing a contract to a business solely based on race and/or gender.
The city also said the challenge it is facing is finding minority-owned businesses who qualify in certain industries.
"We need some minority businesses that can deal with traffic lights or speed bumps," Charles Ewing, Ewing Moving Services, said.
Ewing said he appreciates what the city is doing to increase minority contracts. He owns a moving company and currently has a contract to do business for the city.
"I don't think it was a necessity to bring Jesse in," Ewing said. "I think the mayor has an open ear to the community."
The mayor points out the city now has more than 350 businesses certified to do work for the city. The city increased its contracts with minority-owned businesses by 60 percent in the past year. That's the highest it has been in four years.
The city also points out that even larger cities such as Chicago have only 25-30 percent of minority-owned business contracts.