In an effort to support the Howard business community, County Executive Calvin Ball signed an executive order Thursday morning to prioritize local businesses when making government purchases and when soliciting bids for county projects.
Howard County has approximately 10,000 businesses, Ball said, with about 86% of those businesses having 10 or fewer employees. These businesses, he said, have been “the hardest hit” during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Throughout this pandemic, the business community has adapted and persevered through many challenges and hardships,” Ball said at a news conference at Nightmare Graphics in Columbia. “The economic hardships continue.”
The new order outlines specific rules for procurement and contract administration that support the county’s local businesses first. As outlined by Ball, the rules include:
- Howard County will prioritize local businesses when purchasing goods and services under $10,000.
- In the case of a tie for low bids for noncapital projects, the contract will go to local businesses.
- If a bid from a local business is within 10% of a low bid by a nonlocal firm, contracts may be awarded to the certified local business.
For every dollar spent in Howard with local businesses, approximately 83 cents goes back into the county’s economy, Ball said.
Ball is encouraging local businesses to become certified with the county’s Local Business Initiative, a program which aims “to grow, reignite and strength our business community.”
When Ball first took office in 2018, only 100 businesses were certified. As of Thursday, that number has more than doubled, with 237 firms certified.
Howard County has also directed more funding to local businesses every year since 2018, Ball said. In fiscal 2019, the county spent $10.5 million with local businesses. In fiscal 2020, it spent more than $16 million, he said, and $15.9 million in fiscal 2021.
Ball also said minority businesses are not being “left behind.”
In fiscal 2020, the county awarded more than $59 million in contracts to minority-owned businesses, while in fiscal 2021, it awarded more than $64 million to those businesses, an increase of nearly 10% from fiscal 2020.
“We have always looked for opportunities to strength our partnerships with companies that are based here in the county,” said Pricilla Kung, deputy administrator of the Office of Procurement and Contract Administration.
“We hope this will encourage more of our local companies to register with our [Local Business Initiative] program and take the critical next step of submitting bids for county project. When we award contracts right here at home, we help to keep county tax dollars going back into our hometown businesses.”
Leonardo McClarty, president of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, said his members are always looking for more opportunities to do business in the county.
“As we look at the impact the pandemic has had on our business community, certainly anything that can be done to further strengthen the businesses that call Howard County home is a positive thing,” McClarty said.
Rob Andelman, owner of Nightmare Graphics, a screen printing and graphics design company, applauded the county for its support of small businesses.
“Government leaders constantly state that small businesses are the backbone to the U.S. economy, yet time and again we operate at a disadvantage to much larger companies, many of them out of state,” Andelman said.
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“Here in Howard County, we believe that paying a living wage is important, and today’s executive order backs that up with real action from our county government and shows it supports small businesses like Nightmare Graphics. Even if it costs a little more, buying locally helps our community and keeps our local economy going.”