AVON PARK - As of December, Avon Park has officially made it easier for locally-owned businesses to get a business edge on outsiders in an effort to bolster the homegrown tax base and hometown economy.
At the Avon Park regular city council meeting Dec. 23, a resolution was passed which implements a "local purchasing preference" of up to 7 percent for businesses located within the city limits. Basically, when two or more vendors or businesses submit proposals or bids for jobs and one does business within Avon Park, the proposal or bid would go to the local vendor up to 7 percent above the lowest bid. It is a written policy allowing the purchasing authority to give a preference to local businesses.
Highlands County enacted a local business preference policy in 2008, Sebring did it in 2009 and Lake Placid in 2011.
Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon said the city council had requested a change in the city's purchasing manual leading to the resolution to implement the policy and its inclusion in the revised manual. He said council wanted to keep revenue local and keep in-city businesses from losing out to outside competition by small bid increments.
"The city council wanted to keep the money in this area because our business community generates economic opportunity. The city council wanted to keep the spent money local because these are businesses that operate within the city and this generates local economic activity," he said.
According to the revised manual, the city will now give a preference to Avon Park businesses and Highlands County businesses in making purchases or awarding jobs based on 5 percent preference for Highlands County and 7 percent for Avon Park on purchase prices or bids from zero to $249,999,99. Percent preferences on prices of $250,000 and over are equal for both the county and city at 2, 3 and 4 percent.
Examples of jobs which may be impacted by the local purchasing preference would be utility work, lighting projects and steel construction, said Deleon.
Highlands County Purchasing Manager Danielle Gilbert, who's been with the county for 13 years, said it's good see all the municipalities on board with the purchasing preference. She said it's a win-win for new businesses looking to open or relocate and for the communities and county.
"It's very wonderful. We need a lot more local vendors and have the money stay in the county. I think it helps them (businesses) competing with the bigger companies. Larger businesses are more willing to come in from out of town. Without the policy, (smaller businesses) may not be able to (compete). Of course, they would need to meet the requirements of the policy," she said.
Bobby Lee, owner of Bobby Lee Aluminum, said he feels the preference would be a help to local business owners like himself and get more potential owners to look to Avon Park to start new enterprises.
"I think it's a great thing and will be great for the community and small businesses in particular," said Lee, who's been in business in Avon Park since 1999.
In addition to the purchase preference, the city council also modified the purchasing manual by correcting an inconsistency in the 2012 city audit. Deleon said some sections of the manual allowed for up to $25 in petty cash purchases and others allowed $50. It was corrected to allow $50 throughout.
Lastly, city manager, department head and supervisory staff credit card limits were increased by $1,000.