Over the past few weeks, there has been considerable discussion and opinions surrounding how contracts for services and products are sourced particularly for municipal services and events. Arguments have been made that local suppliers and providers of services and products should perhaps in some opinions, should be given preference when requests for proposals are issued.
As your Chamber of Commerce, we certainly promote the usage of local merchants and vendors where the criteria for awarding is clearly outlined. We would always recommend that if two or more proponents are able to meet the tender proposal requirements at the same price level, the local vendor should always get the business. I must emphasize that the same price criteria be the decision factor and not just local.
All municipalities and cities are governed by the same rules and it certainly puts them in a difficult situation when local suppliers feel that awarding the contract or service should be given locally to local taxpayers. This is becoming more and more a topic of conversation as we see on the National and International stages when discussing cross border trade agreements, as has been the case with the rhetoric that has been generated since the US election.
NAFTA, CETA, supply management agreements and Provencal trade agreements all seem to be getting their share of political and media attention and no doubt will continue to do so in the coming months and years. Protectionism, taxation /tariffs are the words of the day in the political world but only lead to isolation and the loss of opportunities on both sides of the coin. It is going to be an interesting ride as these issues are sorted out at the respective tables.
Although the dollar amounts when talking NAFTA vs local procurement are billions vs. hundreds or thousands, the principal remains the same. Much of the coffee shop banter when President Trump announced the possible tearing up of the NAFTA Agreement, centered on how could he propose such a thing and we, our manufacturers and exporters are going to loose out if the buy American only protectionism thinking goes forward.
On the same level, it appears that the same type of mindset applies at a local level. I do believe that we have to be careful not to try and over compensate in an effort to ensure local suppliers receive preferential treatment on awarding contracts, products, goods or services. We live in a global economy where almost anything can be bought, sold or procured instantly. Competition isn’t a bad thing and our competitors are every where.
I am not advocating that agreements should not be looked at and perhaps renovated but rather we must remain competitive and certainly when we look at our district businesses, they would not be in business today if they did not do work outside of our local boundaries.
Peter Chirico is the President and CEO of the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce.