The Norman Transcript

October 20, 2013

The economic buck doesn’t stop ‘out there’

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — In recent years, elected officials have boosted popularity by showing preference to local vendors on bid projects to support the local economy. But there are times when specialization and proprietary goods and services require going outside the local sphere. That doesn’t mean there’s no local benefit to the local community, however.

Brian Johnson, president of Johnson Portables out of Michigan was in Moore recently as his company is constructing the temporary emergency medical facility on the former site of the Moore Medical Center which was destroyed in the May 20 tornado. That modular emergency department and lab will serve the community for up to two years as a new medical facility is built on the site.

Johnson Portables also constructed the temporary hospital in Joplin, Mo. following the 2011 tornado that hit that city.

Johnson owns several patents on the components his company manufactures. There is no comparable product available locally, but as a homegrown business man, Johnson said he understands the need to boost the local economy.

“We use local contractors here (in Oklahoma),” he said. “All of the flooring will be contracted to a local company. All of the ceiling tile and grid will be subbed locally.”

In addition, subcontractors will do much of the work to provide the mechanical, HVAC, plumbing and electrical work.

“We did a lot of subcontracting in Joplin,” he said.

The emergency medical facility is just one example of proprietary design meaning work for local subcontractors.

The new 24-hour library recently installed by Pioneer Library System at Irving Middle School in Norman was purchased through EnvisionWare, a company based in Duluth, Ga. and shipped from the manufacturer in China. The automated library is new to the United States and not available locally. It’s popular in China, however, where space is limited and hundreds of the machines have been installed.

PLS and the city of Norman brought in local contractors to help with the installation. Local riggers from Allied Steel unloaded and set up the machine while local subcontractors have worked to get it up and running. Schaffner-Valouch was the electric contractor on the project.

Politicians will — and probably should — continue to purchase goods and services with public money from local venders wherever possible, but the economy, like the rest of the universe, is interactive and relational. Using local subcontractors is good business because locals know the ins and outs of the city inspection process.

“They (local trades and subcontractors) are used to calling for inspections and the processes for doing that,” said Norman Development Coordinator Terry Floyd.

Floyd said the city’s Planning and Community Development department has been working with subcontractors through a series of brown bag lunches to increase dialogue about the permitting and inspection processes. Subcontractors learn about changes as they are happening and also get a chance to discuss problems or raise questions.

“It provides an opportunity for our staff to get perspectives from the subcontractors and the trades regarding work in the field,” Floyd said.

This summer, the city implemented an online process for scheduling inspections.

“This is a streamlining project,” Floyd said. “I think it’s starting to be utilized more by our trades. It’s another level of convenience for them. They can check inspection status there as well.”

Joy Hampton