As Sedgwick County looks at local preference purchasing, members of Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Skelton’s 5th District Advisory Board had one tidbit of advice during their meeting on May 30:
Do not allow local vendors to match bids when those from out-of town businesses are lower.
The county has been looking at local preference purchasing for a few months. It started when a Kansas City-area car dealership submitted a bid just a few dollars less than one from a Wichita dealership, according to Bill Buchanan, county manager.
Among the ideas considered have been local preference for bids with only a small percentage of difference and a more risky policy to allow local vendors to match a lower bid from outside of the area.
The matching process could eventually scare away non-local vendors.
“The problem is, it is not going to take too long before you stop getting bids from Shawnee Mission,” Buchanan said. “If you believe in the market and believe the market makes good decision-making you want them all.”
Since March the county has had three bids for vehicles submitted from out-of-area dealerships that were within 1.48 percent of Wichita companies’ bids
After looking at five vehicle bids in that time frame, one was 1.48 percent lower; two others were less than 0.3 percent; and the other two were more than 11 percent lower. With a wider margin, the county does have significant savings – just less than $10,000 in one case, Buchanan said.
While it is unlikely the county would give up nearly $10,000 in savings, concerns about sending dollars out of Sedgwick County for a miniscule amount of savings have persisted.
“We always want to support our businesses, in my opinion,” said Jim Skelton, 5th District Sedgwick County commissioner.
As the commissioners have looked at options, they have found pros and cons to local preference purchasing. Pros would be the jobs saved, growth that could be stimulated and the good will created among the business community.
“Having that money spent with us helps us and our families,” said Lonny Wright of Wichita.
Disadvantages could be that local preferences might discourage vendors from submitting bids.
Advisory board members gave no other formal recommendation for Skelton, as he weighs the local preference purchasing issue in the future.
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