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  • Writer's pictureCLPA Policy Staff

Empowering Small Businesses: Charles County's Procurement Reforms for Inclusion and Growth

Charles County, Maryland, is embarking on a series of updates and proposed changes to its procurement policies. These revisions, which appear in Draft Bill 2023-06, "Revisions to Purchasing Procedures and the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program," aim to provide greater opportunities for small businesses, particularly those owned by minorities and women, while streamlining the purchasing procedures.

Here are a few of the key highlights of these proposed amendments and their potential impact on the local business landscape.

Chapter 203 - Modernizing Purchasing Procedures

Charles County's Chapter 203, governing purchasing procedures, was last updated in 2013. Since then, the county has recognized the need for further enhancements to align with evolving business needs and industry standards. These updates include consolidating approvals, clarifying provisions, and revising surplus property disposal methods.

Threshold Adjustments

One noteworthy change proposed is the adjustment of procurement thresholds. The formal procurement threshold, currently set at $25,000, is poised to increase to $50,000. This move aligns with the state's standards and similar jurisdictions in Maryland. The county strives to allow small businesses more opportunities to compete for smaller projects without cumbersome formal procurement processes by raising the threshold.

Purchase Order (PO) Requirements

The proposed changes suggest increasing the PO required threshold from $1,000 to $2,500 to expedite smaller purchases, especially for tools, equipment, and software. This adjustment acknowledges the impact of inflation on the county's ability to procure services and equipment efficiently under the existing thresholds.

Strengthening Small, Local, and Minority Business Enterprises (SLBE) Program

Recognizing the vital role of small businesses in the local economy, Charles County introduced the SLBE program in 2012. This program promotes purchasing goods and services from qualified, eligible small businesses operating within the county. The proposed changes aim to further enhance the SLBE program by increasing the reserved contracts for qualifying small businesses from $25,000 to $50,000. Additionally, a preference for SLBE firms in the procurement process will be implemented to encourage their participation and success.

Empowering Minority and Women-Owned Businesses (MWBE)

In a concerted effort to support minority and women-owned businesses, the county is focusing on revitalizing the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) program. Established in 2005, the program aims to increase the participation of MBEs in county contracts. However, the current program lacks preferences or set-asides for women and minority-owned firms. The proposed changes include renaming it the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Program and incorporating preferences, aspirational goals, and a formal compliance program to ensure better representation and inclusion.

Addressing Disparities

To gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by minority-owned businesses, Charles County commissioned a disparity study in 2020. The study highlighted disparities in utilizing minority and women-owned firms in county contracts. Based on the study's recommendations, the county plans to implement an enhanced SLBE program, establish MWBE contract compliance measures, and improve outreach efforts. These measures and data reform will aim to address disparities and foster a more equitable business environment.

Next steps

After a presentation from the County's Department of Fiscal and Administrative Services, and Economic Development Department, the Commission agreed to introduce Bill 2023-06 formally. The Commission decided to hold a public hearing for this bill on Tuesday, July 25.



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