At the June 20 city council meeting, Sandy Palmer, purchasing and business services manager for the department of financial management purchasing division, outlined methods city staff uses to include Long Beach-based businesses for contract procurement opportunities and how this can be done more effectively.
“When I first initiated the item back in August, I wanted to make sure that we were definitely highlighting what we have existing but also adding a bit more and making that more robust,” 1st District Councilmember Lena Gonzalez said during the meeting. “It seems we’re headed in the right direction.”
During the PowerPoint presentation, Palmer noted that of the surrounding cities that staff compared, Long Beach is among one of the best agencies when it comes to inclusion for local businesses. According to the report, the city spends $88 million annually with local businesses, which equates to about a 10% local business preference.
Under current regulations, the city is required to award contracts to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder; the funding source or the type/scope of work may require contractors to comply with additional requirements, which could benefit local businesses and employees; and discrimination or preferential treatment is prohibited based on race or gender.
The current support for local businesses during the procurement process includes credits toward business license tax bills to encourage small businesses to start, expand or relocate in the city; recruitment of local businesses to register for electronic notifications; advertising targeted at local businesses; efforts for outreach at local events; e-mail and phone outreach to local businesses on individual procurements; direct outreach to vendors who accessed procurement opportunities to encourage submission; special written instructions and phone support for assistance; online resources; and pre-bid conferences to ensure vendors understand specifications and compliance requirements.
The presentation outlined the following ways to improve the program and include more Long Beach businesses for procurement consideration:
• Integrate and promote the various aspects of the program through branding and marketing
– Consolidate and improve information available through the city’s website, social media and local media
– Reach more businesses and increase recognition of the program
• Improve coordination with other city programs/resources for local businesses
– Partner with business licensing to increase outreach and conduct joint promotion of procurement opportunities and the Small Business Incentive Program
– Coordinate with programs/resources offered in other departments
• Create more and better opportunities for local business participation
– Increase use of PlanetBids vendor database for informal quotes
– Evaluate transition to more detailed commodity/service types
• Simplify documents and requirements to make participation easier
– Review bid and RFP documents to identify opportunities to modernize and simplify them.
– Evaluate use of “sliding scale” for requirements based on size/risk
– Where feasible, improve vendor education regarding requirements
• Continue to support and strengthen local businesses’ ability to compete and succeed on RFPs
– Previously described planned improvements apply equally to RFPs as to bids
– Continue to work with city attorney to explore whether there are additional ways to apply some form of local preference to RFPs
In addition to the proposed steps outlined in the presentation, Gonzalez requested that an update on implementation be presented to the city council within 120 days, as well including all information for businesses to be presented in a multi-language format.
“I believe that the Spanish-speaking community and the Cambodian community feel more comfortable reading in their native language,” Gonzalez said. “I think it’s another opportunity and avenue for us to market to these businesses in that sense.”
Gonzalez made a motion to approve the recommendation, including the 120-day update, which was seconded by 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga. The motion passed 6-0, with councilmembers Suzie Price, Dee Andrews and Rex Richardson absent.
Business Journal Publisher George Economides said he’s glad to see the outreach by the councilwoman, and believes many local businesses are capable of meeting city needs, thus keeping the money in the city and creating more jobs.
“It starts at the business license bureau,” he said. “For new businesses, the business license form should include a section asking if the company is interested in bidding on city contracts, and to pick categories. The city should then include the business on the vendor list to receive e-mails. For current businesses, include a notice about bidding with license renewal invoices.
“We’ve long advocated that the business license form can be used to develop better data about the businesses locating here, such as gauging trends, and to help businesses grow by utilizing city services and programs.”