If you were part of the November 27 webinar from Local First Procurement expert Kimber Lanning, you know all about economic gardening. If not, here's your primer on how to ensure your local economic development policies are measuring what matters and positioning the conversation around the REAL cost of doing business with non-local businesses.
When it comes to making the case for local suppliers to procurement pros, Kimber offered some sure-fire tips: Be an expert. Get your facts, data, research and studies together so you can make the case for why procurement policies might be failing your community. Be prepared for the arguments against local suppliers (crazy, but true, some folks think it's too regulatory, anti-free trade or will causes big businesses to leave the
state). Use the right measurement stick to evaluate the value. What is the rate of return? How many full-
time employees with benefits vs. part time employees with no health care? What kind of charitable contributions are made by locally owned businesses that won't come to the community through a big box contract? And quantify the second tier jobs: web designers, accountants, service providers to that local company that might go away and have a tremendous ripple effect in a local economy.
Once you have data and a solid case for local procurement, make sure you are talking about it in terms that will resonate with your local political and business leaders. Job creation and economics might have more impact
than talking about preference. Align with politicians who step out on the issue and support them whenever possible.
In many communities around North America, because of the extended economic downtown, large out of state companies are bidding more frequently on smaller contracts, competing more often with locally owned, smaller
providers. Arm yourself with what you need to know to compete and win - regardless of size or cost.
By developing a local steering committee with various industries represented, you'll have strength in numbers. And beyond the usual suspects of office supply stores, food services or other common procurement 'no brainers' - look for architects, engineers, contractors and others who might be losing out on bigger contracts repeatedly.
It's not going to be easy, but with hard work, the right facts at your fingertips, and a good coalition behind you, local procurement can vastly benefit your business and your community.