Missoula County to departments: Buy local whenever possible

A woman walks down Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula. The county has adopted a resolution encouraging its departments to consider buying goods and services locally before moving on to the Internet. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

Saying one individual’s expense is another’s revenue, Missoula County this week officially adopted a resolution encouraging all county departments to consider buying goods or services from a local vendor before moving on to the world’s retail giants via the Internet.

County Auditor David Wall presented the proposal to commissioners in early December for consideration. Commissioners unanimously adopted the ensuing resolution on Tuesday.

“This was something we’re asking all departments to keep in mind when buying,” Wall said. “It’s not any kind of hammer from above, saying they must purchase from a local vendor. This says that we really prefer to buy goods from firms in Missoula County.”

Wall said the trend of online shopping, known for its convenience and good prices, has become more common in how and where county departments receive their goods. So common, in fact, it’s become something of a habit that overlooks local firms.

With many businesses struggling during the pandemic, sending local money to a distant retailer may not be in the best interest of the local economy. Even under normal conditions, the county said, it’s a trend they’d like employees to consider before hitting go on their digital shopping cart.

“There is certainly times where we won’t be able to get a good or service from a local vendor, or if the price difference is too great,” Wall said. “Then we’ll have to go outside to do that.”

The purchases often pertain to small items that are easily found and convenient to buy online. They often include basic computer equipment and office supplies. But they’re also available locally and the county is a large employer, so the purchases add up over time.

Among other things, the resolution states that Missoula County’s goal is to “Engage with partners to retain and attract good-paying jobs and encourage a diverse economy.” Commissioners said buying local keeps money in Missoula and circulates those dollars across the local economy.

“I’m excited we’re at this spot,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “We’re saying this is our goal with a clear understanding that it’s not always possible or practical, but when possible and practical, we’re going to keep public money (in the county).”