March 9, 2011

Bill Nemitz: Grow jobs in Maine? Not when India calls

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But she argued that her bid scores should have been higher on experience and HIPAA compliance (HIPAA protection in India? Really?) and that slight upward adjustments in those criteria would have put her on top.

She lost the appeal. And tempted as she was to go to court, she'd already paid her lawyers too much to keep fighting.

Still smoldering, Meyers and Sarah Harding, Brown and Meyers' operations manager, wrote to the governor's office last week in the hope that they might get a better reception from the all-business-all-the-time LePage administration.

They did get a same-day response from Michael Wenzel, acting director of the state's Division of Purchases. He explained that Maine long ago did away with its practice of giving preference to in-state vendors because it invites retaliation from other states when they weigh bids they get from Maine firms.

"We're really sympathetic and we understand (Meyers') concerns," Wenzel said in an interview Tuesday. "It's just that there's really no recourse in this instance -- we're guided by statute."

(Other states aren't quite so reticent about favoring their own. According to a 2009 survey by the National Association of State Purchasing Officers, at least 27 states currently "provide a legal preference for in-state bidders or products.")

Meyers at least understands the concept of reciprocal preference policies among the states. But she's still having a hard time getting her head around the fact that Maine would knowingly ship this work to India to save $6,000 -- and in doing so squelch the creation of three full-time, state-income-tax-paying jobs right here at home.

"We keep hearing all the time that we need to keep the jobs in Maine," Meyers said. "It's really sad."

Indeed. And even under an administration that makes Maine small business its "Job One" priority, there's no sign it's going to change.

"It's a tough case," conceded Dan Demeritt, LePage's communications director, after he looked into Meyers' complaint. "But there are rules (the state's purchasing agents) have to follow."

All the way to India.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: bnemitz@mainetoday.com

 

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