By most accounts, Texas consultant Jim Crupi's recent report "Putting the Future Together" offered some salient points and recommendations for improving the Richmond region. But questions remain about its methodology.
Crupi and the Greater Richmond Chamber, which solicited the report, have refused to identify the financial contributors to the report, which cost an estimated $150,000.
In an independent investigation, Style Weekly has identified 19 financial backers of the report, including the University of Richmond, Ukrop's Super Markets, Performance Food Group, the Martin Agency, Bon Secours, Media General and LandAmerica Financial Corp. (See sidebar.)
Still, the secrecy surrounding the report has raised eyebrows. Critics say Crupi's decision to keep the list of donors anonymous detracts from the project's credibility, considering the history behind Crupi's first report 15 years ago.
In 1992, an anonymous set of business owners paid for Crupi's first report on the region, which strained racial relations with the black political leadership and the white business community. Among his findings then: "Political control over the city has been transferred to elected black leaders who lack the economic and business skills of their predecessors."
There were no such declarations in the 2007 version, which continues to gain political significance. Many community leaders, including Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, have cited the need to act on Crupi's recommendations.
"The more that this report assumes additional prominence, the greater the need to at least know who funded the report," says John Moeser, a visiting fellow at the University of Richmond's Center for Civic Engagement.
Indeed, Crupi titled the closing section of his report "The Business Community Needs to Step Up and Step Out." He writes that business leaders "tend to rely on business organizations like the [Greater Richmond] Chamber or business associations to 'carry the water' for the group as a whole."
Nevertheless, when asked if the anonymity of the donors undercut his conclusions, Crupi says, "I think it rests on the credibility of not just me but on the credibility of who asked me to do it."
And they would be
"They're going to remain anonymous," Crupi says.
Bob Sledd, chairman of Performance Food Group, confirms that his company gave and says he thinks the businesses' desire to remain anonymous was simply an attempt to keep out of the spotlight and let the report speak for itself.
"I don't have any problem [identifying ourselves]. We paid our share," says Jim Ukrop, chairman of Ukrop's Super Markets and First Market Bank.
None of the contributors Style contacted would disclose how much they gave. Jim Dunn, president and CEO of the Greater Richmond Chamber, says between 40 and 45 businesses contributed -- all of them chamber members. But it's unclear how many of the contributors Crupi interviewed. He also declines to name a single source for the 55-page report, which he says is based on 110 one-hour interviews with "business, political and community leaders" in the region.
Crupi says that the 1992 report wasn't intended for a public audience, but was leaked to the broader community. At the time, former Mayor Roy West railed against the report's racial undertones, and tried and failed to persuade fellow City Council members to officially censure the report. This time, Crupi went public with his findings from the get-go.
"To me, the beauty of the whole thing was that a decision was made to share those findings with the entire community," Crupi says, "
and the people who funded it accepted that even they would not see a copy of the report before it was released." Crupi's Donors:
Bank of America
Consolidated Bank & Trust
Exclusive Staffing of Virginia
First Market Bank
Hunton & Williams
LandAmerica Financial Group
Performance Food Group
Philip Morris USA
Ukrop's Super Markets
University of Richmond
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