Make 307 first

2013-02-15T00:00:00Z Make 307 first Casper Star-Tribune Online
February 15, 2013 12:00 am

It sounds so simple that it shouldn't even need to be said: If you're going to give priority to local businesses, then you have to give priority to local businesses.

That's right. You're reading that correctly.

But as it stands, Wyoming law gives preference to local contractors and businesses when it comes to bidding local, county and state jobs. At least that's what the law says. But Wyoming lawmakers, in creating the local contractor preference, also created a back door or work-a-round law that allows many companies, which aren't based in Wyoming, to get the same preferential treatment as the local companies the law was intended to help protect.

The concept behind a local preference law, which can be found in other states, says that government is obligated to take the lowest bid. It does that as a means of fiscal stewardship, ensuring tax dollars are maximized and cronyism, in theory, is thwarted. Yet, preference laws allow government entities to select the lowest-bid local contractor if its bid is within five percent of the out-of-state bid. The idea is: Local companies should be given the preference, and even an advantage, for projects funded by Wyoming taxpayers. And, if no local contractor comes within five percent, an out-of-state contractor or vendor gets the job because spending more wouldn't be a prudent use of taxpayer funds.

The concept behind local preference is straightforward. First, it helps local businesses-- meaning, contractors headquartered in Wyoming. The idea is that if local businesses are healthy the rest of the community benefits. The other concept at work here is that local contractors and vendors do business with other local companies, and the economy is stimulated by the increased business. Wyoming money stays in Wyoming.

The problem with the law is allows a company that has hired and maintains a local workforce of 15 to be considered local, even if the headquarters and majority of workforce is out of state.

However, the Wyoming-centric group, 307 First, wants to close the loophole in Wyoming, eliminating the provision that allows some companies to be classified as "local."

We support this group's effort because we believe if a state enacts a local preference law, then it has to mean something. Right now, it's a law without teeth.

Some larger construction companies or vendors would do well to establish a relatively small workforce, numbering 15 people, in order to compete for large jobs and an added five percent margin, especially if that meant being able to bring in out-of-state resources later.

This puts the same businesses the law was created to help at a disadvantage because they have to compete against larger, out-of-state businesses and the five percent margin advantage becomes meaningless. For those out-of-state companies, the five percent leeway just means a healthier margin.

In the interests of full disclosure, the Casper Star-Tribune would currently fall under a local business category. If the law changes, the Star-Tribune, which employs more than 100 people locally, would no longer be classified as local.

While we believe businesses that just happened to have home offices or headquarters out of state add quality jobs and give back to their Wyoming communities, we also believe the mission and intent of this law cannot be honored as long as the loophole exists.

307 First has to be more than just a group or a political statement. It has to be a priority. 

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. Jackalope
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    Jackalope - February 17, 2013 8:38 am
    Anyone for Wyoming first on their wine, whiskey, or beer?
  2. Bungus
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    Bungus - February 17, 2013 6:38 am
    Sure, loopholes that circumvent the intent of the law must be dealt with, but we need to consider whether that's even possible without onerous intervention in the market. Transparency of the bidding process and the business ties of legislators seems more conducive to fighting cronyism than mandatory local bids. The whole concept of this law seems faulty. Only in a very simple world does "cheaper and local" automatically mean "better."

    Furthermore, basically every conceivable source of consumer goods in Wyoming are headquartered somewhere else. Wal Mart, Home Depot, Menards, Smith's, Albertsons, Safeway, every gas station, etc...So it is rather ridiculous to think "Wyoming dollars" can just stay in Wyoming. There is a limit to how much beef and electricity 500,000 people will actually consume. Local demand for goods pays the wage of local employees, but the profits go elsewhere. If we want our stores to be busy, it is immaterial whether the consumers are residents or out-of-state workers. I was under the impression this was a conservative state, if local companies can't compete they should simply become more efficient rather than using the force of law to send taxpayer money their way.

    If we wanted to "keep Wyoming money in Wyoming" we could simply give the money back to the taxpayers rather than funding projects. However, the projects we are spending money on are presumably public goods. Therefore we all should benefit simply by having the necessary work done. In that case, getting the right value for the dollar is more important than padding the bottom line of "wholly" Wyoming construction companies. I am a recent transplant from Minnesota and several years ago the I-35W bridge collapsed in the heart of Minneapolis. Our most important artery in shipping and business was severed.

    The MN legislature received much criticism (I was skeptical too) because the company they chose to build the new bridge was one of the more expensive options AND was out of state. As it turned out, they were by far the best choice. They built an excellent and modern bridge in the middle of winter in an impressive amount of time. The benefit to all commuters and businesses in the city and state far outweighed the benefit to one local construction company.
  3. Sassy
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    Sassy - February 16, 2013 7:07 am
    If 307 wants to be first- then offer competitive pricing- it really is as simple as that.
  4. Sassy
    Report Abuse
    Sassy - February 16, 2013 7:07 am
    Is 307 wants to be first- then offer competitive pricing- it really is as simple as that.
  5. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - February 15, 2013 10:05 am
    The local construction co's run Cheyenne. Thus, we are now paying higher taxes at the pump to keep their profits stable.

    This is silly. What happened to us all being Americans? The lawyers will always figure out a way for an out-of-state company to be classified as a local. Why go through a charade of making these out of state companies set up a subsidiary here in Wyoming, or hiring folks in WY who work out of state. Even if you restrict it to companies that are wholly owned by WY residents, the big boys will just set up an entity owned by WY resident, and contract away the profits. Its impossible to define it in a way that can't be worked around- Good luck with that one.
  6. Jackalope
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    Jackalope - February 15, 2013 9:45 am
    We worship economies of scale in our national economy, and fly into fits when it influences our state. This is similar to the situation when we attempt to separate our loyalty to our state from our role as citizens of the United States. E pluribus unum fits both our roles in promoting nationalism and the maintenance of our union of states. We cannot beggar our neighbor without paying a price.
  7. ken
    Report Abuse
    ken - February 15, 2013 6:45 am
    In reference to the Tribunes editorial in the printed paper. One could define Wyoming as a rectangular shaped "fly over" state run primarily by outside forces. We do a great job of being proud, working hard and allowing our money, our children and existentially any hope for a diversified future to exit the state. We export elective health care to Texas, Marketing to Colorado, construction of our schools and public buildings to Minnesota and the list goes on and on. This practice applies a "you are not good enough by half" title to us locals, and the career bureaucrats will tell you they are going out of state because it is their job to "get the best bang for the buck" Well that is your "buck" and gone is gone. As long as we are unwilling to define what and who a Wyomingite truly is we will be doomed to be at the mercy of those outside influences that lobby our leaders by telling them it is "ok for those of us who have spent our entire lives in Wyoming to be less than equal to those" who will leave once they have mined our cash or our economy weakens. We will be here, they won't and our money will be gone. So much for preference eh?
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