Sunday, August 20, 2006

To outsource or not to outsource?

That is the question facing the Columbia Association.

A Columbia Association committee is calling on the association's board of directors to turn down proposed restrictions on the outsourcing of work to foreign countries. A board member is pushing such restrictions as a way to support the local economy.

Meanwhile, the oversight committee will review the homeowner association's acquisition policy to see if any changes should be made in the association's policy on outsourcing.

"The real issue was ... that we need to address the process and the issue of acquisition," said Cynthia Coyle, acting chairwoman at Thursday's meeting. "We will review the acquisition policy and address any issues which may include some levels of discussion about outsourcing, but not to cancel outsourcing."

Phil Marcus, board member representing Kings Contrivance, presented the board with a motion last month that would require the board to have a majority vote on all outsourced overseas contracts of more than $25,000. His motion could come up for a vote as early as Thursday's board meeting.

Although I don't think outsourcing is itself bad, I'm generally in favor of using (quasi) public money to help strengthen our local economy. The more money that we circulate through the system -- as opposed to shipping it elsewhere, even if not to another country -- the better, as this money helps create and maintain jobs for our friends and neighbors. That said, sometimes it's just not feasible, economically or otherwise, to spend locally.

I would support a policy that allowed CA to spend a certain percentage above the lowest bid (say 5 percent) for contracts with companies that are locally-owned or primarily use local labor. The county already has something like this in place for spending on "green" products. Both policies recognize the hidden benefits of spending locally or green, benefits that may cost a little more up front but may pay off in the long run.

Although this policy wouldn't always result in the lowest prices for citizens, their money would go farther by staying close to home.