A tangled web: from Turkey to the Pacific Islands

Dateline: Wed 19 Mar 2014

Cory Schouten of the Indianapolis Business Journal did excellent reporting last week on Ersal Ozdemir, the big roller from Carmel who charms money out of legislators in order to subsidize his big-ticket projects.

The Carmel developer has been in the news lately for his pitch to build an $87 million soccer stadium in Downtown Indy, but he's got a long and fruitful history of thinking big and drawing down big bucks.

"He's the master of public subsidy -- getting public dollars into projects," Schouten quotes a former employe of Ozdemir's at the Keystone Group, the Carmel company run by Ozdemir.

What I found most intriguing in Schouten's reporting deals with "Ozdemir's designation as a minority business enterprise that appears to stretch statutory definitions."

This is where the rubber meets the road.....or at least, where an angle appears that appeals to myself and Amos Brown, writing in The Recorder this past week.

Ozdemir, who was born in Turkey, wanted designation by the city of Indy as a Minority-owned Business (MBE), but that status was denied in 2010. The rules say that minority designation is for blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, native Alaskans and Asian Pacific Islanders. 

Ozdemir then successfully appealed, arguing that he is Asian because Turkey spans both Europe and Asia. Nobody has yet explained how Turkey can be designated part of the Pacific Islands, but whatever.

The larger point is that the minority status is an embarrassment to the administration of Indy Mayor Greg Ballard, says Amos Brown in The Recorder. ("Ballard administration transforms white-owned business into an Asian, minority-owned one."

Brown, who likes numbers and statistics, tried to obtain "detailed data" from the city about how much Indy has spent with minority business; he was told that such data did not exist, he says. 

"Now we know why. Because giving millions in contracts to a business that anywhere else in the country would be considered a majority-owned business has unacceptably made the Ballard administration's minority-owned business data worthless.

"And it's turned into a lie the Ballard administration's claims of how well they're helping Indianapolis' minority businesses.

"Worse," says Brown, "classifying Keystone Construction as an Asian-owned bsiness is a slap in the face to the many legitimate businesses owned by true Asian residents in Indianapolis."

The overall effect, says Brown, is to reduce MBE programs in Indy to the level where they are both corrupt and worthless.

Meantime, the very successful Keystone Group under Ersal Ozdemir continues to build wealth. In the past the developer was "an early cheerleader" for Ballarad, but, with the prospect of a Dem mayor in the future, he is now making sure to reach out to Dems as well.





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