By Olivia Padilla-Jackson, CABQ and Synthia Jaramillo, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce
Our public sector in Albuquerque purchases over $1.5 billion in goods and services each year. So, where do those dollars go? And could changing how we spend them impact Albuquerque’s economic growth?
Over the last year, Albuquerque anchor institutions like City and County government, University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College, publicly funded hospitals, the Albuquerque Community Foundation and Albuquerque Public Schools have been drilling down into where public dollars are spent and how changes in their spending can better support locally-owned businesses to impact Albuquerque’s economy, adding jobs and increasing wages. This work has included several procurement initiatives led by organizations across Albuquerque, including the Living Cities Integration Initiative (City Alive), The Living Cities City Accelerator Procurement Cohort, Healthy Neighborhoods ABQ, Racial Equity Here, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce HUBDO program, What Works Cities and the Family Economic Security Action Alliance.
This strategy of encouraging large institutions to spend their dollars locally (for example purchasing paper from a local paper manufacturer or hiring a local demolition firm for construction needs) can dramatically improve results for all types of local businesses in Albuquerque. And the great thing about this strategy is that it does not require any increase in expenditures or major changes to policy. While government is not the answer for everything, this low-hanging opportunity ensures tax dollars are not just used to provide quality services, but that we’re getting the biggest bang for our buck by supporting local people and local businesses.
Lessons learned from Baltimore’s Buy Local Efforts
This month, a team from the grow your own collaborative initiative, City Alive, traveled to Baltimore alongside Healthy Neighborhoods ABQ to learn more from public sector institutions about efforts to support local businesses through procurement. Baltimore’s anchor institutions, including the City, the County, John Hopkins University and Hospital, University of Maryland and various non-governmental groups, have joined forces to hire, buy from and invest in their local community.
One of the key takeaways for City Alive from the trip was the value of focus. Instead of hosting a general procurement fair to share information about how to sign up to do business with the anchor institutions generally, Baltimore analyzed data to understand which local industries had strong opportunities from which to buy more goods and services. By looking at this data, coupled with identifying local businesses that were providing those services, their industry-specific procurement fair worked to match the buyers of goods and services from intuitions with businesses that could fit their needs.
Our Albuquerque team recognized an opportunity to explore a similar approach and to elaborate on that idea by creating department purchase profiles that stimulate improvement where specific local industries exist. In addition, through the work of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, we’re placing a focus on supporting historically marginalized businesses (minority, women and veteran owned businesses) to also make and measure progress toward racial and income equity.
Through our experience in Baltimore we recognized the importance of transparency about not just what large institutions buy in a given year, but what they are going to buy over the next year. This pairing of foresight and reflection can help our local entrepreneurs generate ideas about starting a new business, building capacity and/or partnering with other businesses to meet that need.
By collaborating across sectors to develop a pipeline of opportunities for established, startup and disadvantaged businesses, we believe we can gain real traction toward our goal of job creation and economic mobility. Additionally, by assessing procurement disparities, and working alongside large purchasing bodies to make needed improvements around racial equity, the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce can assist anchor institutions to improve both practices and impact.
Learn about our first Procurement Fair here.