The number of businesses registering as Nassau County vendors has jumped by 80 percent since the county eliminated a $125 vendor fee in an effort to attract more small companies, county officials said.
The number rose from 960 at the end of last year to 1,727 as of Feb. 26, officials said.
The Nassau County Legislature voted to eliminate the fee in September. County officials said the goal was to encourage more small businesses, including companies owned by minorities and women, to seek county work.
Registered vendors automatically are notified of solicitations for goods and services they had expressed interest in providing, according to the administration of County Executive Laura Curran.
The system aims to expand the group of vendors from the "select few" that routinely got county work, officials said.
Curran said the increase in the number of registered vendors also helps the county. "More competition means better prices,” she said.
John Chiara, deputy county executive for compliance, said the jump in vendor registrations already has “shown that with one quick thing, we’re already having more competition. It also shows that small businesses were the ones most impacted because they're the ones that don't want to just lay out money in a system where they don't think they're going to get a fair shake.”
To make up for revenues the fee used to generate, Nassau imposed administrative service charges, starting at $160 and topping at $533, on competitvely bid contracts worth more than $10,000, Chiara said.
Previously, there were administrative charges only on personal service contracts worth more than $5,000, and that fee remains.
Karen Bomzer, co-chair of the Long-Island based Independent Business Women’s Circle, said of elimination of the $125 fee:
“Anything that encourages people to start their own business or to take a little seed and make it grow, is without a doubt a help for most women in business."
Shelton J. Munlin, chief executive and president of SJR Security Consultants LLC in Merrick, said his company registered as a county vendor this year. Munlin said his company, which supplies security guards, has not worked for the county before, but "we would love to."
Of the fee, Munlin said: "If you don't get the contract, that's money that you have to put out there, with nothing to be [returned]."
Robert Cleary, Nassau's chief procurement officer, called the former fee a "significant barrier ... It's very off-putting to a new vendor that is considering doing work with the government when the first thing they're being told is they have to pay for the privilege to recieve and participate in bids."
Chiara said that the number of vendors in the system exceeded 2,000 before the fee was imposed in 2014. “I want these numbers to get bigger and bigger," Chiara said.