From renovating buildings to providing food for emergency workers, the City of Portland’s Procurement Services division contracted $845 million on various projects during the 2019-2020 financial year to meet Portlanders’ needs – and fueled the local economy in the process.
A new annual report details how the City’s procurement team made it easier to do business with the City, ensured that public dollars are invested responsibly and in compliance with regulations, and diversified the businesses that are awarded City contracts. Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, the City was still able to award 1,100 contracts. That number does not include the special procurements in response to the pandemic, such as distributing gift cards for rental assistance and supporting food security efforts throughout the City.
“We get to work on pretty cool and meaningful initiatives,” said Lester Spitler, who is the City’s Chief Procurement Officer. “We also are responsible for implementing policies and programs aimed at increasing opportunities for businesses owned by people of color and women.” This is especially clear in construction projects where Procurement leveraged the City’s spending power to benefit businesses certified by the State of Oregon as Disadvantaged-, Minority-, Women-owned Business Enterprise, Emerging Small Business, or Service Disabled Veteran-owned Business Enterprises.
One business that has benefitted from these social equity initiatives is Just Bucket Excavating. Owner Willie Davis has been a part of the City’s Prime Contractor Development Program, which provides training and technical support to local contractors. The City also awarded Just Bucket Excavating a contract from its pilot Job Order Contracting Program, which contracts maintenance work with firms certified by the State of Oregon. Job Order Contracting reduces barriers for those firms in accessing contracting opportunities, while making the solicitation process more efficient for City bureaus.
Davis praised Spitler, who is leaving the City this month after serving as Chief Procurement Officer since April 2018, for his high level of involvement and responsiveness to concerns from contractors of color – a commitment that extends across the City's team.
“Procurement staff go above and beyond to contact small businesses when contracting opportunities arise," Davis said. "They are very professional when addressing potential concerns and are instrumental in providing critical information on how to stay compliant with the City’s bidding and contracting requirements.”
Davis credits the City’s social equity in contracting programs for helping him and others like him grow their businesses. He's proud that his firm contributes to the economy surrounding job sites, and provides a positive spotlight for communities of color.
“Just Bucket is not just performing good work in the community, but is good for the local economy when we eat at restaurants and shop at stores nearby where we work," Davis said. "It is also great to see contractors of color out there rebuilding the community.”
As Davis’ story demonstrates, Procurement Services’ impact ripples throughout the region. The division is uniquely suited to bring opportunities for growth and investment to local businesses, playing a key role as the City recovers from COVID-19 and addresses calls for racial equity.
With $845 million in annual investment, Procurement Services – in partnership with the rest of the City of Portland – has committed to spending that money strategically. The lessons gleaned from this year’s report will help the City plan for future opportunities in the community and more fully tap into the potential of current social equity initiatives, division leaders said.
In the 2020-21 fiscal year, Procurement is focused on continuing to improve policy and program outcomes related to social equity in contracting. Specifically, the division aims to bring the existing policy framework, which is race- and gender-neutral, in alignment with the City's six core values: anti-racism, equity, transparency, communication, collaboration and fiscal responsibility. Procurement Services will continue to improve the City’s Procurement business processes, which will increase the level of quality and service through engagement, transparency, innovation. and process improvement.