MILLEDGEVILLE — The Baldwin County Board of Education is being encouraged to reconsider implementing a Local Vendor Preference Policy to support Milledgeville-Baldwin County’s resources and recycle money back into the community.
“Anytime you have the opportunity to purchase local, I encourage the school board to do so. It’s such an important part of keeping that fuel of driving local businesses and industry going,” said Travis Strickland, past Partners for Progress Business Development Committee chair and local business advocate who reintroduced the policy to the school board during last week’s regular work session. “Baldwin County needs this; it’s an important piece of the puzzle to get our economy back on the right track.”
School Superintendent Geneva Braziel said the policy will be discussed with the school system’s attorney to receive guidance.
“We have to consult with our attorney and take directions from there,” she said. “Right now, we don’t know if the policy will fit with the school system.”
School board member Lyn Chandler of District 3 hopes representatives from the school system will meet with Strickland to start the process of passing what could be a potential policy.
“I’m in favor of this concept. If nothing is done, then I will make a motion to move forward with this. It benefits our entire community, not just the school board. Local vendors are tax-paying citizens in our community; they’re paying the cost of what we’re doing. The more we can support those businesses, our community prospers and the better off the school system is,” Chandler said. “The down side of the argument would be that it may increase cost. Once you get bids in, there’s a certain margin a local vendor can reduce their price to meet the bid. The negative side of that is it discourages competitive bidding, but the advantages out-weigh the disadvantages.”
In 2011, one of the biggest concerns for the Partners for Progress Business Development Committee was when local businesses complained about the amount of purchases that were done outside the community.
“A lot of the businesses were frustrated because they are really the engine that drives our economy. We started researching what happens when we spend dollars locally versus spending out of town,” Strickland said. “From one study, we found that for every $100 in consumer spending with a local business, $68 remains in the local economy.”
The committee created the Local Vendor Preference Policy in 2011 and the City of Milledgeville was the first to pass the guidelines. Strickland presented the policy initially to the school board that same year to urge the school system to consider making changes to its purchasing policy, but Strickland “never received feedback from the board.” Baldwin County also passed the policy during last month’s meeting.
“We told the school board that the city and county were both considering it, but nothing happened after my presentation. Now that the city and county has passed it we want to bring it back to the school board to rekindle the idea. We would love to see this passed by the start of the school year,” Strickland said. “We’re asking them to reconsider or sit down with a committee to talk about this further so we can go into the details. They can set this up where the board doesn’t have to spend more; we’re just asking them to spend it locally.”
The Local Vendor Preference policy for the city and county reads that all purchases with an estimated cost of $100,000 or lower fall under the policy. If a local bidder’s price is within 7 percent of a low out-of-town vendor’s bid, the local vendor has five working days to match the non-local bid.
“Local businesses have been hit hard. They’re paying local taxes, volunteering and giving back to the community; they’re hurting like everybody else. Anytime we have the opportunity to keep our dollars here then we should do that,” Strickland said. “There’s no negatives for the school board to set this policy in place. This is a very small thing in the mix of our problems, but it’s one step in the right direction. Hopefully, the school board will be on board this time.”
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