During a press conference on Monday are, from left, Ellen O’Brien, executive director of Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce; Bob Bontempi, chair; and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson. Photo by Arlene Gross
February 08, 2012 | 04:24 PMWhen the Town of Huntington puts out a bid for professional services, local businesses will be given preference over out-of-town businesses, thanks to a new resolution voted unanimously at the Feb. 6 Town Board meeting.
Sponsored by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, the resolution calls for the town's director of purchasing or a possible committee appointed by the Town Board make local preference one of many factors to consider when reviewing requests for proposal, as a way of supporting local businesses in this recession. To be eligible for local preference, businesses must be established within the Town of Huntington for at least one year prior to the date of making the proposal.
A business's location has not previously been one of the criteria used to determine whether a bid would be accepted.
Other criteria include financial capability; training and experience in the field; references and prior work; quality of staffing and ability to complete the project or provide the service; and responsibility of proposer and cost. In the past, the lowest responsible bidder generally won the bid. Now, a local business that submits a bid no more than 5 percent over the lowest price quoted by a nonlocal business will be considered the lowest bidder.
On Monday afternoon, Cuthbertson and several representatives from local chambers of commerce of the township gathered on the bustling corner of Elm Street and New York Avenue in Huntington to discuss the new initiative.
"We want to support our local businesses through innovative legislation," Cuthbertson said. "It will give them a little bit of an edge when they are seeking business through the request for proposal process."
The legislation is limited to requests for proposals only, Cuthbertson said. "When it comes to competitive bids, we have to follow the state law." Requests for proposals are not considered competitive bids because other qualifications besides pricing are examined, whereas in competitive bidding, the lowest price is the sole consideration, he explained.
The resolution builds upon Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce's Buy Local: Stimulate the Economy campaign, the legislator said.
"We need to keep the green in the town of Huntington. We encourage everyone to support the chamber of commerce's program to buy locally. And when there are local proposals, our local businesses, hopefully can qualify and just have that little bit of a leg up when it comes to securing a town contract," Cuthbertson said. "The town attorney thoroughly researched this and this is what we are able to do under our local laws and within the very complex system of state bidding requirement."
Mike DeLuise, president of the Melville Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the legislation.
"When we look at spending money in our local community," DeLuise said, "every dollar we spend is multiplied maybe six or seven times. If you go into a retail store, you're not only helping the person who owns the store but you're helping the clerk behind the counter, the person that they buy office supplies from. To do it locally, it just makes so much more sense."
But Bill Walsh, sales manager of VelveTop Products in Huntington Station, worries that Huntington businesses might be adversely impacted if other towns enact similar legislation. Instead, Walsh wants to see a preference for Long Island businesses in general.
"I like the idea," Walsh said. " I understand the theory behind it, but I just think it needs to be talked about a little more. It might backfire. It might hurt Huntington companies more than it will help. … I do business with every municipality and school district on Long Island. If they all decide we're going to do this 5 percent thing, then it means that I'm at a disadvantage in nine other towns of Suffolk County."
If other towns establish similar regulations, then the Town Board will have to reexamine the matter, Cuthbertson said.
"We think this is just a small incentive to help local businesses," he said. "If other towns ... there's some reprisal ... we'll deal with it."
Matt Cohen, vice president of government affairs for the Long Island Association, which promotes business throughout the region, would not opine on the possible ramifications of the new law other than to acknowledge that LIA supports making it easier for Long Island companies to get jobs.