Editorial: Local preference policy

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Dougherty County Commission does not have a policy to give preference to local businesses, when purchasing products or services.

This came to light last year when they purchased vehicles from an Atlanta auto dealer, rather than pay a few dollars more to buy them from a local dealer.

Some business owners say the County Commission should install that policy, like The Albany City Commission and the Dougherty County School system already have.

The Dougherty Commission Chairman explained their independence means competition in pricing, saving money in the long run for taxpayers. But at what cost?

We clearly don't mind spending a little more to keep our local businesses thriving and our local citizens employed.

Recently, Sunbelt Ford-Town's Fleet Manager criticized this lack of a local preference option, after losing a bid for four police cars to a dealership in metro Atlanta.

The Albany dealership's bid was only $380 more... within the local preference option employed by the City of Albany and the Dougherty County School Board, this gives locally owned businesses an advantage when pricing like this is very close.

We don't understand why the chamber of commerce pushes, "buy local" initiatives, but they don't want to challenge the Dougherty County Commission to make that policy an ordinance.

Why is the Economic Development Commission, responsible for defending our local jobs, not lobbying the Commission to adopt this policy?

Chairman Chris Cohilas provided data that the majority of bids are won by local businesses without a preference. Cohilas also explained that not being bound by a local preference rule, allowed the county to negotiate for more fair pricing, even from local businesses, Saving taxpayers money.

But ask yourself how you would feel if your local business lost a bid for $300 to an out of town business, when the commission is spending your local tax dollars?

The City of Albany has a 5% local preference ordinance, and their central services director admits it does stifle competition.

They say some out of town businesses don't bother bidding with an entity with a local preference.  We agree with the business logic, but know in the long run, economic development and jobs in Dougherty County will benefit from local preference in bidding.

Commissioners obviously are doing a good job honoring the "buy local" theme on most purchases, but it will take determination by business people like Harry Prisant from Ford Town, to publicly call out commissioners when local preference is by-passed.

Again, we call on our county commissioners to adopt a local preference policy.

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