County Registers More Minority Suppliers

May 19, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Kent County 2005 Supplier Diversity Report revealed that since 2001 the county has more than doubled its base of minority vendors that can bid on projects, but the dollar value of the business available to these suppliers has dwindled a bit since that year.

In 2001, 137 women- and minority-owned businesses (WMB) were in the purchasing department's vendor database. By 2005, that number had grown by 193 percent to 402.

But over the same period, the amount of business available to WMB suppliers dipped from $13.26 million to $13.18 million.

Kent County Purchasing Director Jon Denhof said the drop off in dollar volume was due to restrictions the county has put on spending, part of an effort to balance the general fund budget without dipping heavily into the reserve account.

Despite the constraints, WMB firms did more business volume with the county in 2005 than in 2001. Five years ago, these companies captured $1.17 million in county contracts. But last year that figure grew to $1.29 million.

Women-owned companies registered the biggest volume gain over the period, as these firms went from capturing $463,011 in 2001 to $920,113 in 2005. Last year's dollar volume represented an increase of 98.7 percent from 2001 and 71 percent of the total spending the county did with WMBs in 2005.

Companies owned by minority males, though, saw their share of county business shrink by 47 percent over those years, as these firms went from getting $712,658 worth of contracts in 2001 to $376,510 last year.

But Denhof said bids made by WMB companies rose by 30 percent from 2004 to 2005. He attributed part of that increase to having the county centralize its purchasing efforts, instead of having each department do so separately.

"This has great impact on our ability to work with minority vendors," he said. "That commitment to centralized purchasing has become strengthened throughout the years."

Denhof also said having bid information, registration forms and status reports available online has contributed to getting more bids from WMBs. The county also sends e-mails to registered firms to alert them of bid opportunities. But suppliers can't place bids on the purchasing department's page of www.accesskent.com yet. Firms can, however, download the bid form from there and then fax or mail it to the department.

"We are looking toward having them submit bids on the Internet, but we have some security issues to work out," he said.

Although the county belongs to the Michigan Minority Business Development Council, Denhof said it wasn't necessary for minority companies to join the MMBDC to participate in the county's purchasing process. But he did encourage vendors to become members.    

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