In Governor Brian Sandoval’s State of the State speech, he encouraged everyone to “shop Nevada first” and said Nevada should make “supporting private sector job creation a way of life for all government agencies.” I heartily endorse both these ideas, but the state has a long way to go to prove its support for homegrown businesses.
For example, did you know that when Nevada companies compete for state contracts with companies based in other states, there is no preference given to the local business? The only exception is that the Public Works Department gives a 5 percent preference to Nevada companies in contracts worth more than $250,000. Other than that, Nevada companies are on their own. All bids are graded on a point system, no matter where the businesses are based. We pay taxes to the state, but we get little support in return.
And logic doesn’t seem to matter much, either. Instead of hiring a Nevada company to promote tourism efforts and to market our state as a cultural destination, in July the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs issued a $3.2 million, two-year contract to Burson-Marsteller, an international firm headquartered in New York.
This $3.2 million contract would have gone a long way to help a local marketing firm survive these lean times. Besides enabling them to keep or increase their staffing, consider the trickle-down effect of using local firms to provide goods and services: photographers, printers, graphic artists, film services, etc. Burson-Marsteller has resources all over the world and may not need to use any local companies, although it says RedRock Strategies, a PR firm based in Las Vegas, will do some of the work. Besides that, a $3 million contract must be a drop in the bucket to them. Will they assign their A-team to handle this project, or will we get their junior account executives?
A big portion of this contract is set aside for promoting tourism to rural Nevada. What do New Yorkers know about rural Nevada? Have they ever attended a Cowboy Poetry Festival or driven the Loneliest Highway? Do they know where Genoa is? Have they visited the mining museum in Tonopah? Do they even know how to pronounce our state’s name correctly?
The Tourism Department also issued a $250,000 contract to GreenRubino, a brand development consultant based in Seattle, to develop a new “brand” for Nevada. Some of their proposed slogans are: reiNVent, All In Nevada, and Nevada Is For Doers. Really?? It seems like a local firm could have come up with something as good, and that contract money could have stayed in our state.
Obviously, the state needs to get its money worth when issuing contracts. We don’t want to pay more than necessary just to give a contract to a local company, and we want to make sure that the work gets done by an experienced, competent team. But in some cases, common sense just doesn’t prevail. For example, the Glenn Group, a statewide agency, had a contract for 5 years with the Nevada Department of Public Safety to promote highway safety. When the $2 million contract came up for renewal recently, the Glenn Group scored 7.6 out of 10 and a Utah firm scored a 7.7. For one-tenth of a point, the money went to Utah instead of Nevada.
If it truly is the Governor’s mandate to support Nevada businesses, then state processes need to change and we need to give preference to Nevada companies whenever contracts go out for bid. This is something that can and should be brought up in the next legislative session. Nevada companies deserve our support, and “shop Nevada first” should apply to all state contracts.
Originally published in Nevada Business Magazine: