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Bidding process puts Sandoval in bind over ‘buy local’ slogan

Nevada’s Department of Public Safety recently let a $2 million
advertising and public relations contract go to a company in Utah. Out of eight bids submitted, five were from Nevada companies and three were from out of state.

After an evaluation using a 10-point weighted and averaged system, the top ranked company was Penna Powers Brian Haynes of Salt Lake City. The Utah company averaged 7.7. The Glenn Group in Reno averaged 7.6. R&R Partners was third-ranked with 7.2.

Valerie Glenn, whose company has held the contract since 2005, believes her proposal was close enough that in light of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s urging Nevadans to “buy local,” more consideration should be given to Nevada companies in the bidding process.

“All things being relatively equal, you should try to do business with someone in Nevada,” she said.

Glenn met more than a month ago with Sandoval, who said he would look into the state’s purchasing process, which doesn’t give an edge to in-state companies as some states do. His spokeswoman, Mary-Sarah Kinner, confirmed Thursday, “It is certainly something the governor would like to examine in the interim.”

If the score had been a tie, the contract would have gone to the Nevada company, explained Kimberlee Tarter, deputy administrator of the state Purchasing Department.

Penna Powers ranked higher in the area of demonstrated competence and experience in performance of comparable engagements, and lower than Glenn in expertise and availability of key personnel. The two companies tied on reasonableness of costs, value-added services and conformance with the terms of the proposal request.

On a 10-point evaluation by five different people, it looks like the difference between 7.7 and 7.6 is negligible. “We happen to be second by one-tenth of a point,” Glenn said.

Tarter said some agencies use percentages and that system makes it look like there’s a wider gap than when a 10-point evaluation is used. Applying percentages, the contrast between Penna Powers and Glenn would be a 10-point difference.

Obviously the loss of a $2 million contract over three years is a big hit for the Glenn Group, as well as for the Nevada vendors Glenn hires to perform work, so there is a trickle down loss.

No one is saying Penna Powers isn’t well-qualified to do the work. I looked carefully at both proposals, and theirs was strong and imaginative. I would have given their proposal a slight edge. Penna Powers also has a cooperative agreement with PBS&J, an engineering firm with an office in Henderson that works for the Nevada Department of Transportation on safety ad campaigns such as the one sought by public safety officials.

Glenn said she wasn’t being critical of the governor or the Purchasing Department, or even the process. But in a process which is so close, “I would hope there would be a dose of common sense.”

Glenn isn’t looking for the contract to be changed. It’s a done deal. She’s hoping that Sandoval alters the process in the future to help Nevada companies.

The Purchasing Department did make one important change as a result of Sandoval’s wish that Nevadans favor Nevada businesses.

Some agencies have the authority to make purchases directly. To help them focus on Nevada vendors, Tarter said the Purchasing Department created a database of 10,000 Nevada vendors on its website. “We’re trying to train agencies to try to use that,” she said.

Here’s Sandoval’s quandary. Give an edge to Nevada businesses on multimillion-dollar contracts and maybe you don’t end up with the very best work. Or you discourage out-of-state bidders. Or other states retaliate by knocking points off Nevada companies’ bids.

Close, but no cigar is a longstanding way of operating at carnivals, in elections and in bids.

If Sandoval changes the bid system to favor Nevada companies, Valerie Glenn will deserve the credit.

Or she may shoulder the blame if there are unintended consequences.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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