Forsyth County plans to end a local business initiative meant to increase the number of county projects awarded to local businesses but projects it will operate the program for about six more months.
At a work session on Tuesday, Forsyth County commissioners voted 5-0 to remove the local business initiative, which awarded projects under $1 million to local businesses if within 5 percent of the cost of the lowest bid. The initiative dates back to 2009, when the economy was struggling.
“This is not a best practice,” said County Manager Eric Johnson. “This is not a recommended practice, and in some cases it can lead to retaliation by other jurisdictions that say, if you’re going to give preferences to your businesses then we’re going to ensure your [county’s] businesses are going to get the same ability in our jurisdiction.”
Procurement Director Donna Kukarola said the program needed to be renewed each year, and commissioners favored extending it for six months to allow local businesses to adjust to the change.
“I would like to give everybody notice that it’s going to end,” said District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos.
The program does not include projects for roads and bridges and public works.
Kukarola said the initiative was underused and increased costs to the county.
“Out of 2,660 transactions that it could have affected last year, 19 [were awarded],” she said. “It cost the county an additional $18,079 [in 2017].”
Kukarola said many of the awarded projects were for vehicles and maintenance. Johnson said that money didn’t necessarily stay in the county.
“Most of the money doesn’t go to the local dealership,” he said. “They get a portion of that, but the lion’s share goes back to some place in Michigan where they manufacture.”
The measure could be voted on for final approval during the next regular meeting.