County Offers Local Business a Lift

Small-business owners in St. Johns County are getting a little help from their friends – in government.

County commissioners approved a change to the county’s purchasing policy to give local businesses a chance to be more competitive in bidding for county contracts, according to a media release. The policy change covers purchases between $10,000 abd $250,000.

“In 2019, the Board of County Commissioners adopted a Local Preference Policy,” said Jaime T. Locklear, director of the Purchasing & Contracts Department, in the release. “There was good intent; however, it became a cumbersome administrative process within our policies, with minimal benefit to local businesses in our community.”

Locklear said the updated policy “right-sizes” the local preference guidelines “in a way that relates more appropriately to local industry” and creates a more efficient system for the county.

“We are also collaborating with the (Small Business Development Center) at (the University of North Florida and the (St. Johns County) Chamber to develop an outreach and interactive campaign to enhance the capabilities for local and small businesses to participate in county opportunities,” he said in the release.

Ordinance modifies the Local Preference Policy in several ways, including eligibility criteria, application and process.  

Isabelle Renault, St. Johns Chamber President & CEO Isabelle Renault said the business advocacy worked with the county to develop the policy changes.

“Last fall, the county approached the chamber with an interesting issue they faced implementing the new contracting ordinance designed to help small St. Johns County companies successfully navigate doing business with the county,” she said in the release. “Working closely with the county, we arrived at a solution that both financially encourages small businesses in St. Johns to bid on (requests for proposal) put out by the county but also saves the county potentially millions of dollars by correcting a procurement system that was actually turning away the most competitive bidders from even participating in the process.”

Renault said the chamber will be working with the county on educational programs to promote the opportunities for small businesses.