DTB Fabrications' Tracey Butler, on behalf of all local businesses, is championing the cause of buying local where Tenterfield Shire Council is concerned, eloquently stating her case before councillors at Wednesday's council meeting.
She and husband Darren, both Tenterfield born and bred, have built a flourishing metal fabrications business over the past 18 years and pride themselves on employing, hiring and buying local. They are also keen to provide local service as well, but have increasingly found themselves gazumped by out-of-towners when it comes to tendering for council business.
Current council policy states it may discount local bids by up to five per cent for the purpose of price comparison. Mrs Butler feels the contributions such businesses make to the community is worth more than that, using her own business as an example.
"We have recently built a new workshop and offices in the industrial estate and we employ three local full-time tradesman, one local full-time apprentice and one part-time local office staff and this is not including ourselves," she said.
"We have successfully trained eight boilermakers within the community, of which seven remain using their trade within our town. Some have gone on to marry, have children, buy homes etc.
"Our business has had a long running relationship with Tenterfield Shire council, but over the last two years our tendering for work has been unsuccessful most of the time."
She's been told by council staff that they would love to use the business, but current policy restricts them. Freight costs added $2000 to their last tender, with their use of Australian-made steel (as opposed to Australian-standard steel) also contributing to a quote which put them out of the running.
Mrs Butler would like to see the local discount increased and the wording of the policy clarified to be more transparent. She cited Ballina's policy, which takes into account knowledge and experience with local conditions, whether the supplier is a locally based business, and whether they have worked locally and have had a social impact on the local economy. Ballina then discounts the tender price by a minimum of 15 per cent.
Other councils have similar procurement policies with a local discount of 15 per cent or more.
"We are a local business, we own our own premises, we offer long-term employment to local people, we pay between $4 and $10 above award hourly wages to encourage our staff to stay and live locally," Mrs Butler said.
"We contribute and donate locally to most local events both in money and manpower. We sponsor three local sporting teams.
"We support the local high school with its work placement program, offering local youth the chance to come and experience our industry, and we are proud to say that 100 per cent of our apprentices have come from this great program.
"How many out-of-town contractors do you find supporting all these local initiatives, charities and events?
"We are proud to stand here today and tell you that our new workshop and offices were built from 100 per cent local contractors, suppliers and trades. From the building itself right through to the digital and the furnishings, we decided at the beginning that we would use local for the whole project, and we are proud to say that we achieved that.
"Everything we earn we try and use locally. Every dollar spent out of town is gone.
"You might save a little at the time, but lose a lot in the long run."
Mrs Butler has the backing of Councillor Bronwyn Petrie who lodged a notice of motion that council review its policy with a view to increasing the local discount, with a report to come to the December meeting. That deadline was pushed out to February as internal auditors were onsite last week looking at the procurement policy and their feedback was still coming. Furthermore council doesn't expect to be doing much procurement in the interim.
Mayor Peter Petty warned against comparisons with bigger councils like Ballina with a much larger ratepayer base, but Cr Petrie said we can't afford not to do this.
"We need businesses and their staff, or we have no ratepayers," she said.