Montgomery County seeking to expand diversity of vendors

·2 min read

Aug. 13—Montgomery County is reaching out to minority-, veteran- and women-owned companies to give every local business a chance to participate and work with the county government, officials said.

"Diversity is very important to the county as a whole, not only in employment but also on the vendor side," said Kyle Kolopanis, director of purchasing for Montgomery County. "Having a diverse group of candidates really brings more productivity and creatively to projects. It brings different skill sets together to help enhance the environment and develop new business ideas.

"It just makes us a more capable organization and a stronger county."

County data show that about 27% of Montgomery County's population is Black, Hispanic, Latino or Asian, but only about 1.5% of vendors the county worked with were minority-owned businesses in 2020. Kolopanis said the county increased the number of diverse businesses it worked with over the last couple years by reaching out to vendors.

The county has hosted vendor outreach events to teach business owners about the county's bidding process and how to become a county vendor. The next event will likely take place in the fall.

Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said interested business should contact the county to learn more. The purchasing department's phone number is 937-225-4699.

"We would love to have an opportunity for your business to be a partner with our business," Colbert said. "We continue to do outreach in all walks of communities throughout the county."

David Abney, president of Wise Construction, said his company has worked with local and state governments for a long time. He said working with the county has become easier over the years, and businesses owners should consider looking into opportunities with Montgomery County.

"Our businesses support employment, they pay taxes so I just think it's important to participate," he said.

It can be challenging to start working with local governments if a business owner isn't accustomed to taking on jobs with public money involved, but once someone starts working in that area it gets easier, he said. He also said the county's bidding process is more transparent now than ever.

"We all contribute and I think it's important they are doing their part in making sure there are opportunities for those businesses," Abney said. "And as businesses we have our part to do, but it helps (that) the county puts forth the effort to make sure they identify people in the community that might be able to work with them."

Kolopanis said when people think of county contracts, they often think of construction or road repair. But, the county is a large organization with elected officials whose offices have different needs. The county buys paper and office supplies, maintains a fleet of vehicles, hires contractors for large projects and does everything in between.

"The list goes on and on," Kolopanis said. "We have such a wide variety that we buy for."