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Small business spending by city on track for a record high

Margie Manning



Photo credit: CO.STARTERS

The city of St. Petersburg spent $14.1 million on construction contracts and the purchase of goods and services from small business enterprises in the first 10 months of fiscal year 2020.

By the time the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, the city will have spent a record amount of money with SBEs, said Jessica Eilerman, small business and entrepreneurship manager.

Still, the city is falling short of its target goal of 14 percent of total spending on SBEs in the current fiscal year, she said. Currently, the total spend is about 8 percent.

But year-over-year trends are positive, Eilerman said when she provided a quarterly update on the Small Business Enterprises program to a City Council committee Thursday, including a month-by-month accounting for the city’s Tier 1 spending. Tier 1 involves contracts and purchases the city makes directly with small businesses.

Source: St. Petersburg City Council Budget, Finance and Taxation committee

The big increase year-over-year was due in part to the technical nature of last year’s contracts, Eilerman said.

“Last year we had a lot of highly technical water resource-related work happening. We tried to get SBEs as much as we could but due to the nature of those projects and the work itself, it didn’t always lend to participation with our list of certified SBEs,” she said.

The city is currently working on a tool that would allow it to better track small businesses who are subcontractors and other “downspend” recipients of city work, Eilerman said.

The city currently tracks how much it spends with women-owned and minority-owned small businesses. Eilerman’s department also is developing tools to track city purchases from LGBTQ-owned businesses, a requirement that was the subject of a resolution approved by the City Council last year.

The city has a list of 294 certified Small Business Enterprises and wants to add to that total. Eilerman expects to announce a date soon for a community outreach meeting for businesses interested in the SBE program.

A small business navigator program, launched by the Greenhouse team in fall 2019, continues to reach out to small business owners citywide to raise awareness, although it has not been able to be “boots on the ground” since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Eilerman said.

“Right now, the small business navigator is probably more important than ever during these times, which are becoming more and more difficult to navigate. This is an initiative that might need to go on steroids at this point, even without being able to do boots on the ground work,” said Gina Driscoll, City Council vice chairman.

The Greenhouse team also provides training that is required for small businesses before they can be certified with the city as an SBE.

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