Our Views: Rethink city of Janesville's bid policy

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

If you're considering a new car and the price in Madison is $200 less than a Janesville dealer's, are you likely to buy from the Madison dealer?

Probably not.

When you might have to sometimes return to Madison for service and waste time, energy and gas, initial price difference is negligible. Besides, you like buying locally and helping businesses and workers here.

The same scenario could play out when the city of Janesville considers bids for equipment or services. Except that an out-of-town company's bid gets the nod even if it's only a tiny fraction better than a local bid.

That doesn't sit well with Brian Williams of Northland Equipment. As Sunday's Gazette explained, Northland's base bid of $51,747 to add equipment to a city dump truck was only $1,247, or about 2.5 percent higher than a Madison bid. The Madison company got the job.

Yes, as Acting City Manager Jay Winzenz suggests, the city has a fiduciary responsibility to spend tax dollars wisely. And, yes, if you favor local bids over out-of-town ones, outside companies might be reluctant to bid and you risk paying more for goods and services. Narrow misses to outside companies, however, might also discourage local bidders.

Besides, good, reputable local companies merit support, particularly those such as Northland that have done business fairly with the city. The city should consider adjusting its policy to favor local companies when they're within, say, 2 percent or 3 percent of bids made by out-of-town businesses.

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