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Why Federal Agencies Should Buy Local

Choosing regional contractors can improve the odds of better service and lower costs.

Local sourcing is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives, and it’s not just about the food we eat.  When it comes to professional services needed for delivery of government programs at the federal, state and local levels, buying local affords opportunities to improve agility, responsiveness, transparency and cost-effectiveness of service delivery.  By investing in businesses whose employees live and pay taxes in the communities served by an agency’s program, the government can see the impact of services firsthand.

Why Local Selection Matters

Depending on the procurement, a local firm may have better service capabilities based on ties to the community. Companies located near the site of a government program often have a better understanding of contract requirements because they have more insight into local needs and culture. In addition, a local provider may be more invested in the success of the program because of emotional ties to the job, while a company based outside the area may view the program as just another contract and revenue source. 

Let’s say the Environmental Protection Agency is looking for a firm to conduct a survey of public attitudes about water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. A company located in the Chesapeake watershed may have local ties that would improve the efficacy of data collection and, ultimately, the quality of survey results.

From a pricing standpoint, companies based in the program service delivery area are usually better equipped to offer a more realistic budget estimate reflecting the cost of living in the surrounding area. Conversely, a lower bid submitted by a firm located in another part of the country may not be able to support payment of salaries commensurate with living costs in the program locale.

For state and local agencies, buying local can have major impacts when it comes to job creation and investment in the communities that need it most. By keeping jobs and tax dollars in the immediate areas served by agency programs, the profits can be much more than monetary.  Every time an agency creates jobs locally, it puts less of a burden on social services.

How to Find Qualified Service Providers

There is no question government agency buyers need to dig deeper to find qualified local companies to deliver the services needed by participants in federal, state and local programs.  Here is a three-step process to jump-start an agency’s efforts to buy local:

  1. Start with more intensive market research to identify local companies with the capabilities, experience, and certifications needed in program service delivery areas.
  2. Reach out to these local companies by phone or email to let them know of potential procurement opportunities. A proven best practice is to hold a local industry day, such as Fairfax County’s annual Government Contractors Industry Day held in collaboration with local chambers of commerce.
  3. When crafting requests for proposal or bids keep in mind how local companies might contribute to your agency’s mission. For example, some states give preference to state-and locally certified small, minority and woman-owned businesses.

Staci L. Redmon is president and CEO of Strategy and Management Services Inc., a management and technology contractor based in Springfield, Virginia.

(Image via James R. Martin/Shutterstock.com)