Local bid preference in the city of Mobile is something Councilman William Carroll has been trying to put in place before he leaves office.
The councilman, who decided in July not to run for a third term, wants an ordinance to give local vendors preference. In addition, he would like to require any group in which a contract is awarded by the city to have at least 15 percent participation by minorities, women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
This means the city would “weigh the bids” for local vendors that have had an office in Mobile for at least three years. That would give those companies a better chance at winning bids against out-of-town companies. Separately the ordinance also would provide more insurance that minorities would be involved in city business.
If a company dedicates some of its subcontract work to minority-owned businesses, then the new weighted bidding process would benefit them.
Carroll went to bat for his proposed ordinance during a special meeting Oct. 15.
“First, let me address the rumors that the only reason I’m proposing this now is because it will benefit my own self since I am now working for the second largest minority-owned engineering firm in the Southeast. That’s just not true. I’ve been at this long before I took the job,” he said. “So, in 1985 the Zoghby Act made a local preference law. There was even an individual hired to monitor it, but over time, that position just disappeared.
“We haven’t been protecting our local vendors and minorities.”
Carroll referenced the $33.5 million given to ThyssenKrupp by the city, saying local companies have seen little return on the incentive.
“The city gave all this money to TK and there is little work done by locally owned businesses. Now TK is selling pieces of their business, and I don’t think we can say the local businesses got their share out of it,” he said.
Councilor Reggie Copeland said he thought there was redundancy in the ordinance since the 1985 Zoghby Act already covers much of what Carroll is trying to accomplish.
However, many in the business community said they are the ones who will be affected most, but their voices have not been heard.
Bob Chapelle, Executive Vice President of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, asked the councilors to hold a meeting to talk to local businesses.
“I just ask you to seek the input of businesses here now about the potential impact on them,” he said. “I think you should really hear their opinions.”
The councilors still had a number of questions after the meeting, but for Carroll, the clock is ticking.
His last meeting as a councilor will be Oct. 29 and that is when the local preference ordinance is set to come before the council again.
“I want this to pass before I leave,” Carroll said. “I hope that there is nothing that needs to be fixed on Oct. 29. I will do everything I can to meet everyone’s needs to see this passed before I leave office.”