Published: Sep 29, 2010 10:37 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 29, 2010 5:28 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Creating more opportunities for local businesses, and creating jobs - Those are the goals of an effort supported by the Lee Building Industry Association. The group wants Lee Co. to explore agreements with Charlotte and possibly other counties, to treat each others' companies, as "local" in the awarding of government contracts.

"It makes good sense. We have an agreement with Collier, but it would be nice for Lee companies to go north and bid as "locals" on Charlotte or Sarasota contracts," said Michael Reitman of the Lee Building Industry Association. "We want jobs in Southwest Florida, the entire region, and getting more of these agreements would be a step to achieve that for the region.  This would be great for builders, engineers and architects in Lee County."

Currently, Charlotte has a partnership with Sarasota and DeSoto counties. Each treats companies located in the other counties,  as "local". That gives them a big advantage in getting contracts. For example, a company headquartered in any of the 3 counties,  earns a large number of points, that are compiled in the bidding process. The bid with the most points, wins.

Companies in the three counties also earn points by having a certain percentage of their employees, living in those counties.

"I think it would open things up a lot,"said Robert Weber, pres. of Garden St. Iron and  Metal in Ft. Myers. "I know we have bid on things in Charlotte, and some we got, some we didn't. It would be fairer to treat all of us from this region, as local bidders."

Jobless construction worker Paul Evans agrees. "The business here stinks. There are no jobs in Lee. I would like them to open up to the north and see if we could get some work in Charlotte.

Lee Co. Commissioners are supposed to get a briefing on the local preference deals, and talk about the issue, on Monday, Oct. 4.