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Local small businesses now will be preferred for Charles County government contracts if they are certified with the Maryland Small Business Reserve Program, the Charles County commissioners decided Tuesday.

The law, passed 4-1 Tuesday evening, allows county government to favor businesses headquartered in Charles County, those with a satellite office in the county that generates at least a quarter of its total sales and those at least a quarter of whose workers live in the county.

The form the preference will take will be determined by the commissioners later but could include points added to bid evaluations or specific contracts set aside for small businesses, the bill states.

Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D) cast the dissenting vote, dissatisfied with language granting administrative duties to the commissioners’ president rather than to the board as a whole.

The law will take effect April 13.

Before the vote, the board heard testimony from three people in favor of the bill.

Katie Stickel, owner of Wildes-Spirit Design & Printing, said after the hearing that she thought her White Plains-based shop could get business under the deal.

“I would like to think so. I’m optimistic,” she said.

Joseph Erskine of Waldorf, owner of a small concierge service, said the measure would foster business retention.

It would “help … develop businesses [working] between one another to keep the money, to keep business relations here in the tri-county area, specifically here in Charles County. That’s what I do: I do business development, joint ventures, team agreements. This here, I know it will help not only me but every citizen who wants to start businesses to say, ‘I know that I can do this,’” Erskine said.

“This is long overdue and I’m so glad to see the county moving forward in trying to help our small and local businesses,” said Delores Moses of Waldorf. “At the present time, I am involved with working with the veterans who are coming home. They are trying to start their own businesses. This would be a good start for the ones who are living here in Charles County.”

Moses also urged the county to help small businesses through the sometimes-onerous process of obtaining state certification through the Maryland SBR program, which grants small businesses preference in state government contracting and is required to participate in the county program as well.

Charles County businesses have had trouble competing in Prince George’s County because that government already has its own local business preference program, said Ken Gould, president of the Business Alliance of Charles County. The new law will help even the field.

Construction and paving companies are obvious beneficiaries, but businesses “across the board” could hope to land contracts, he said. He recommended that entrepreneurs attend networking events to meet county officials, including commissioners, in person.

“That face-to-face networking, and being able to walk up to an elected official [and] say hello, give them your business card, those types of things go a long way. Lots of times you won’t know for months [if] it’s done you any good at all,” Gould said.

emitrano@somdnews.com