Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Disappointment...

I have worked very hard over the years using my column in the Business Journal to promote local business. I have been especially hard on local governments, insisting they purchase locally at every opportunity. I've never advocated that local businesses should just be handed business by the government if they aren't price competitive, but that they should always be given the opportunity to compete — which hasn't always happened.

In fact, when it comes to buying services, Kitsap County and some of our other quasi-governmental agencies, seem to have a belief that there isn't the knowledge and/or expertise here to make it even worthwhile to look within our county. They also appear to think that if they don't pay big money (our tax dollars) for something, it must not be as good as what's available elsewhere else. My experience has been just the opposite. What I have found is that many service providers located here originally came from Seattle — and in many cases California — in search of a better quality of life. It hasn't diminished their ability to deliver high quality services, but it has in many cases reduced the price. Understanding Kitsap isn't Seattle and doesn't command the prices most service providers there can charge, many of those people have willingly traded money for quality of life.

In Port Orchard, I have instituted a simple purchasing policy. Assuming cost competitiveness, our purchasing priorities are to look first within the City itself (that way, we can at least recapture a portion of the sales tax we pay), then South Kitsap, Kitsap County, Washington State and then elsewhere — in that order.

So it was a major disappointment to me when the City posted an RFP to redesign our Web site and out of 28 bids received, only three were from Kitsap-based firms and two from Seattle. The rest were from out of state and came from as far away as Atlanta, New York City, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, and of course, California. We also directly contacted a number of local Web designers whose work we were familiar with, encouraging them to bid as well. Not a single one of them did.

After reviewing the bids we did receive, we decided to revise the specs somewhat and will re-advertise the project hoping to draw additional bidders. Hopefully, this time some will be local.

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