Getting local governments to place using local services and purchasing local goods as a high priority continues to be a challenge in Central Oregon.
Often decision makers will use the mistaken adage that to be an expert in your field you have to be from out of town. Notice how most consultants are from out of the area, even though there may be a local consultant with the exact same credentials.
Local government entities can make the case that they have to take the lowest bid…and this may be true in some situations. However, we doubt that when Deschutes County recently awarded a contract to a Utah-based firm (GumCo) for a market research and development social marketing campaign that price was the basis for the decision.
One has to question why many of our public entities continue to overlook qualified professionals when hiring architects, engineers, contractors, marketing and design teams.
Locally owned and operated businesses in Deschutes County decided to protest the recent County decision and earlier this month filed a protest against the Notice of Intent to Award Contract. Those local companies include Intreprid Marketing, Swivel Marketing, Quon Design, Cascade Publications Inc. and MinuteMan Press.
The main grounds upon which this protest is based was presented this way:
• Deschutes County employees and elected officials are shepherding funds coming primarily from within the County, it is our expectation that every effort be made to use these funds within the County, to the benefit of the community. We strongly object to such funds being injected into another community, particularly into another state’s economy (Utah).
• We have the expectation that the County will be in line with the overwhelming community consensus and commitment to the “Make Local Habit” ethic. This decision goes directly in opposition to the express wishes and spirit of our community and this ethic.
• The RFP is for development of a Social Marketing Campaign with the goal of influencing behavior and social patterns in our County. A firm from Utah lacks community insights, experience with the culture and people of Central Oregon, local connections and the social network relationships that we all know of crucial importance in a small, socially-connected community as we have in our County. We believe that a firm from Utah simply cannot utilize County resources to their full potential in a social campaign of this nature. Nor will they have a consistent physical presence to serve as ambassadors of such a campaign.
• Deschutes County is home to world-class marketing agencies and talent with the best possible ability to deliver on such a project. Each year, we attract some of the world’s top marketing leaders to the Swivel Conference (formerly WebCAM), who recognize the Bend area as a hub for the marketing and creative brand development profession. There is simply no need to contract outside of Deschutes County for services that can best be performed here.
• Awarding the RFP to a Utah firm would ostensibly preclude benefits to other local businesses such as printers, promotional products providers and the various businesses that provide services to local marketing agencies such as accountants, banks, companies that provide office supplies and law firms.
• Local marketing/branding firms and related businesses regularly serve nonprofits and small businesses pro bono or at cost and so depend on larger projects of this type to sustain their businesses and provide for the families of those who depend on them. Additionally, many of these people serve on volunteer boards and committees that greatly benefit the County.
The protesters, this publication company included, want to make a strong statement that preference for County projects of this nature needs to be given to firms within Deschutes County, and that if there is a lack of applicants from within the County, staff has a responsibility to better raise awareness of these opportunities within our marketing community [for example, through Central Oregon AdFed (soon to be folded into Swivel), local chambers of commerce and City Club of Central Oregon, and via traditional media channels (such as Cascade Business News) and social media.]
While Deschutes County may be able to make a case for hiring this Utah firm, the point should not be lost that buying local can have a huge impact on our economic vitality. As a local business this is a concept we urge you to strive to all year long. Buying office supplies, computers and furniture from local businesses means keeping your neighbors, your friends, your family members employed.
Another appealing aspect of buying from a local merchant is the ability to receive personal service and direct contact with a company that backs up its products.
We continue to advocate for a local preference in hiring practices with our cities, counties and colleges.
According to the Notice of Intent to Award Contract letter from the County, the Commissioners must now hold a public hearing April 27, 10am, as contract administrators. In the meantime, you can notify colleagues and invite them to write, email and attend the hearing.