Kent Spends More With Local Vendors

December 1, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Even though Kent County spent 13 percent more with local vendors in 2002 than it did in 2000, minority-owned firms got a smaller slice of that spending pie last year.

But companies headed by females got a bigger piece than in 2000.

Those findings come from a report recently released by the county, which showed that Kent did $6.1 million worth of business last year with local firms that offered goods and services to the county, up from $5.4 million two years ago.

The county spent nearly $563,000 with businesses owned by minorities last year, which was 9 percent of the $6.1 million total. Two years ago, Kent spent $809,000 with minorities, or 15 percent of the $5.4 million worth of business the county did then with local suppliers. For minority-owned firms, that difference was a 30 percent decline from 2000 to last year.

A spending drop in temporary services proved to be the largest single reason county revenue fell for minority-owned firms. In 2000, Kent used the Job Shoppe to fill many of its temporary positions. But the county bid that service out the following year.

Kent spent $323,000 with the Job Shoppe in 2000 and just $27,000 last year. The report noted that if the Job Shoppe were left out of the analysis, county spending with minority businesses would have risen by 23 percent from 2000 to 2002.

Women-owned firms, however, saw their receipts from doing business with the county climb by 69 percent.

These companies did nearly $377,500 worth of business with Kent last year, an amount that represents 6 percent of the county’s total vendor spending. In 2000, female-led firms claimed 4 percent of that year’s spending, or roughly $222,900.

The county does its vendor spending in eight areas.

Those categories, and the percentage spent with minorities and women, were: advertising, 23.6 percent; clothing and accessories, 1.9 percent; computers, equipment and software, 5.5 percent; delivery services, 23.3 percent; grounds maintenance, 17.3 percent; janitorial services, 22.1 percent; promotional items and awards, 49.4 percent; and temporary services, 23.5 percent.

County spending with minorities and women was up last year from 2000 in four of the categories. Advertising was up by 9 percent; clothing, 61 percent; grounds and maintenance, 14 percent; and janitorial services, 36 percent.

In the other four, county spending dropped from two years ago. Computers fell by 30 percent; delivery service, 6 percent; promotional items, 43 percent; and temporary services, 45 percent.

The report also noted that the number of minority- and women-owned firms that have registered to do business with the county has increased. County purchasing records from 2000 showed that 87 minority companies and 41 female-headed firms were registered. Those numbers grew respectively last year to 196 and 60, marking respective gains of 125 percent and 46 percent.

“We had a fairly dramatic increase in the number of vendors as a result of our outreach efforts,” said Jon Denhof, purchasing director for the county.

The county uses a five-point outreach program to contact minorities and women, and last year Kent committed at least 20 percent of its total advertising budget to outlets that attract those groups.

“We need to encourage minority vendors to participate more,” said James Vaughn, county commissioner for the 17th District, which covers most of southeast Grand Rapids.

The county spent $5.6 million with all local vendors in 2001. So the $6.1 million spent by Kent last year was nearly a 9 percent increase from the previous fiscal year.    

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