SPARKS — In a time of economic instability, a common battle cry in the fight to recover is, “buy local” — a variation on the age-old adage “protest your own.”
This battle cry often is directed at consumers who are protecting their scarce dollars and spending money only on necessities, such as food and clothing. But another element of it involves government spending and its impact on businesses lucky enough to land a potentially lucrative contract.
That point is illustrated by the stories of some of the employees at GDiesel, a fuel company based in Sparks. The employment of Daniel Lucero, a fuel truck driver; Jennifer Castro, an office worker specializing in inventory and accounting; and Bob Smith, a pipe fitter, represent how sensitive hiring practices combined with a company’s growth can help combat unemployment.
GDiesel, a fuel company started by father and son Rudolf and Peter Gunnerman, makes a diesel fuel-natural gas hybrid that it sells to a range of customers, from small gas stations to companies and governments with large vehicle fleets. They opened with themselves and one other employee in 2008 and have grown to 33 in addition to the father and son.
The Gunnermans’ efforts to sell their product — 18 million gallons of it to date, according to Peter — has spurred the company’s growth. That growth brought an end to Lucero’s four-year search for work after leaving the Army in 2007; gave Castro the ability to support her husband and two children after she lost her job with Western Energetics; and meant Smith, who has bounced between working for himself and for others since coming to Reno in 1978, could find work even at age 74.
“It was a struggle,” Castro said of her year out of work before landing the job at GDiesel about a year ago. “We were pushing pennies but we made it through.”
After speaking with the three employees, Peter spoke of how growing his business by selling fuel to large customers enabled him to expand his workforce. While his intent is somewhat self-serving, his message boiled down to, “Everyone has the ability to support local companies, from independent businesses to municipalities.”
His message is not lost on local public servants whose job it is to sort through various bid proposals and contract awards. Dan Marran, contracts and risk manager for the city of Sparks, said his job is a delicated balance between the legal requirement to get the best value for taxpayer money and empathizing with the desire to use local businesses for city work.
In northern Nevada, he said, the notion of giving preference to businesses based on their situs in the state is tricky because of proximity to the California border. Companies could come from just over the state line and win jobs as “Nevada businesses” because they qualified under state law for a certificate giving them preference on bids because they paid a certain amount of tax here.
Nevada has a law in place, Marran explained, that enables businesses to qualify for a certificate that enables them to win bids on construction contracts valued at more than $250,000 even if their bid is 5 percent higher than an out-of-state bidder.
To that end, Marran said, in the last legislative session AB 144 was passed, adding some extra criteria for a business to qualify for the certificate. Time will tell if the added requirements help businesses that truly are Nevada-based.
Dave Asher, who started the website www.livelocalrenosparks.com, said he would like to see the state Legislature expanded the cushion to greater than 5 percent for Nevada businesses to have preference over out-of-state bidders. He said that tax money paid in to local government is put to its best full use by being spent at local businesses.
“You vote with your money every time it leaves your hand or write a check,” he said.