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New county purchasing policy benefits local small businesses

St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday, May 7, to pass a new ordinance giving additional (preferential) consideration to local businesses bidding on contracts with the county.

The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce's advocacy and public policy team played a critical role in this ordinance's passage, which gives preferential consideration to local businesses on contracts of up to $250,000.

Originally passed in 2019 and amended in 2022, the county's Purchasing Policy did "not provide the benefit to local businesses as originally intended," according to the new ordinance. Instead of lowering the county's costs and encouraging more small businesses to participate in the process, the ordinance was in some cases actually increasing county costs and making fulfillment difficult for the businesses.

"So many St. Johns County-based businesses are small businesses, and having the opportunity to win these county contracts can significantly impact their bottom line," said chamber President and CEO Isabelle Renault. "Giving preference to these businesses also means our government's money — our tax dollars — stays in our local economy."

The chamber worked closely with the county's purchasing director to develop a solution that encourages local businesses to bid on county contracts, and saves the county potentially millions of dollars by correcting a procurement system that was preventing the most competitive bidders from participating in the process.

The chamber focuses its work on creating a vibrant, sustainable businesses environment in St. Johns County, and part of that work includes strong support for the local small businesses than make up more than 80% of the chamber's membership.

It's important to note that local businesses of any size may still bid on county contracts larger than $250,000 but do not receive preferential consideration in that bidding process.

Local businesses must meet several criteria to receive preferential consideration, such as having a brick and mortar location in the county for at least a year and using local resources to perform at least half the work specified in the solicitation.

In the coming months, the chamber will work closely with the county's Procurement Office to develop education programs for local small businesses to help them successfully participate in future procurements.

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