Each year, state and local governments in Arizona spend millions of dollars buying items and services they require. Unfortunately, though, those governments spend too many local tax dollars on out-of-state vendors when local small businesses could do the job just as well — or better.

When I ran for mayor, I said that we need to do more to keep those dollars in our community, and help local small businesses do business with the city. When I took office as mayor, my colleagues on the City Council and I challenged the city’s procurement team to meet those goals.

Just over a year ago, Phoenix launched its Local Small Business Set-Aside Program, which allows small businesses in Maricopa County to register online with the city to identify themselves and the products or services they sell. That allows the city to automatically contact those companies when we need those goods or services.

The results speak for themselves.

In the two years before we began the effort, Phoenix awarded small businesses a mere 21 contracts worth a combined total of roughly $50,000.

Since the program’s launch, Phoenix has granted 443 contracts with a combined total value of $2.2 million. Nearly 90 percent of the cash value of the contracts stayed in Arizona, and more than half of that stayed right here in Phoenix.

That’s great news — and I’m pushing for us to do even more.

Business owners often talk about wanting to compete for government procurement contracts. The drawbacks or impediments to independent small business are as simple as not being able to understand procurement jargon or even finding potential opportunities buried in government websites.

Phoenix’s database significantly reduces the degree of difficulty.

Small business owners do not have to be procurement experts to find or secure contracts. All they have to do is register through our website to tell us their industry or specialty so we can email notifications when the city is looking to make a particular purchase.

I’m proud Phoenix is quickly becoming a national leader in showing how government can do a better job to boost local small business, but the truth is we’re just scratching the surface.

Over the next year, Phoenix will roll out a state-of-the-art e-procurement system that will allow information to be more easily shared with other Phoenix-area communities. And hopefully, the small businesses who sign up can be alerted of potential opportunities not just from Phoenix — but from every local government in Maricopa County.

Phoenix’s success on this front shows that what we’ve done in the past isn’t necessarily how things ought to operate in the future. We can always look for new ways to do things, and sometimes even when we make a simple change it can make a big difference.

• Greg Stanton was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2011.

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