When it comes to bidding against companies from outside Montgomery County on county projects, local businesses will now officially receive a leg up.
The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a bill that would require the county to give preferences to county businesses in the event of a tie with a company from outside the county.
The bill actually codifies what already is in county procurement regulations, with some additions, said bill sponsor Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring on Tuesday.
Council members have long heard from business owners that the county’s procurement process is too long and involved, said Council Vice President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) of Takoma Park.
He said he supported the bill but asked Department of General Services Director David Dise if it would complicate the process even further.
Dise said he didn’t expect it to.
Government procurement can provide some challenges to businesses because of the need to take measures to protect public money, Dise said.
But in other jurisdictions that already have similar rules in place, a policy to break ties doesn’t usually provide an extra burden, he said.
Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg asked Dise if he thought the bill could hurt Montgomery companies trying to get contracts in other jurisdictions.
The bill establishes a way to break ties for similar bids, not a preference for Montgomery companies that submit a higher bid than a competitor, Dise said.
The bill defines a county-based bidder as a company that “has its principal place of business in Montgomery County” and has “operated through an office, distribution point, or facility in the county for at least six months immediately prior to submitting a bid in response to a formal solicitation issued by the county,” and one that owns property taxed by the county.
In fiscal 2013, 28 percent of contracts awarded by the county, worth more than $233 million, were to local businesses working as the primary contractor or subcontractor, according to a Feb. 20 letter from County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) expressing support for the bill.
Council President Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown made helping local businesses a priority when he became council president in January.
Rice said Tuesday that he is working on several more items designed to help small businesses, which will be released in the next few weeks.