ALBANY, Ga. -- In a 5-2 vote, the Dougherty County Commission decided Monday to hire the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center to manage a revamped small business program, putting an end to 18 months of discussion.
The vote, taken on a substitute motion offered by Commissioner Gloria Gaines, was to hire Tech to manage a program that would create a 29-county zone of eligibility for contractors and subcontractors for county construction contracts and a smaller seven-county sheltered market for commodities and service contracts of $25,000 or less.
Commissioners Lamar Hudgins and Ewell Lyle voted against the motion while Gaines, Chairman Jeff Sinyard and Commissioners John Hayes, Muarlean Edwards and Jack Stone voted in favor of it.
In a separate vote, the commission voted to close its own small business office by a 6-1 vote. Edwards was the lone dissenter.
The votes Monday mean the county will contract with Georgia Tech to manage its program in a one-year, $55,000 deal.
The county's small business office was the most recent version of what had previously been known as the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, or SDBU.
The SDBU worked to help women- and black-owned businesses gain access to government contracts. But after a disparity study conducted by the county found that there were no signs of overt racism in the local marketplace, the SDBU was stripped of its race-based programs and reformed into the small business office.
After six months in operation, the new office failed to impress commissioners after it had managed to produce 34 certified small businesses, prompting commissioners to begin looking at other options for the program.