Change in state buying pushed

By Kirsten Singleton, The Augusta Chronicle

Published July 26, 2007

COLUMBIA – The process by which the state buys what it needs – be that paper towels or office furniture – isn’t among the most exciting of topics, Frank Knapp acknowledges.

So he wasn’t surprised when a bill making changes to the state procurement code was swept aside this spring in favor of other, more prominent legislation.

But Mr. Knapp, the president of the state Small Business Chamber of Commerce, believes the proposal would bring more business and money into South Carolina, so he and others intend to fight for the legislation again next session.

“It’s one of those things that would do well for a lot of South Carolina,” Mr. Knapp said. “It’s just not very sexy.”

The bill would allow out-of-state companies to get the same preferences on bids for government contracts that South Carolina companies receive, if the out-of-state companies agree to use South Carolina personnel, services and goods in making the final product.

Under current law, South Carolina-based companies that vie for government contracts get a special preference of 7 percent on their bids over out-of-state competitors.

South Carolina Procurement Director Delbert Singleton gave an example: Two companies – one in South Carolina, one in Georgia – submit identical $100,000 bids for a contract.

The state would apply the preference to the in-state company so that the company’s bid would be 7 percent less than the competitor’s. That, potentially, would make the in-state company the low bidder and winner of the contract.

Mr. Singleton said the preference isn’t often the deciding factor in awarding contracts.

For the first three months of 2007, the preferences made a difference of only $16,360 in contracts.

Supporters of the bill, though, believe out-of-state companies would take advantage of the preference to gain a competitive edge – and would use more South Carolina goods and services in the process.

Sens. Nikki Setzler, R-West Columbia, and Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, sponsored the bill.

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