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Public Service Commission introduces Hire Mississippi rule

Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Public Service Commission

Public Service Commissioner for the Northern District Brandon Presley introduced a rule that he said could boost the state’s economy and contractors at Thursday’s public PSC meeting.

Public Service Commission Chairman Brandon Presley (D-Nettleton) introduced the “Hire Mississippi Rule”, a mandate requiring rate regulated, investor-owned utilities to greatly expand how they offer contracting and business opportunities to Mississippi based companies seeking to contract with the billions of dollars a year companies spend on operations, maintenance and construction.

Presley told News Mississippi that his goal was to get Mississippi-based contractors higher on the list when it comes to projects that need to be done in Mississippi, and for better explanations of the choosing process.

“We want to tell our contractors there’s a job up for bid,” said Presley. “And if their bid is not accepted, explain to them why, which overall will make them more competitive so they can secure bids in future.”

Commissioner Presley said he’s tired of seeing jobs that could be going to Mississippians and the state economy going to out of state companies.

“I am so sick and tired of seeing out of state car tags on construction sites in my Mississippi when I know that Mississippians are footing the bill for those projects. I have zero doubt that MISSISSIPPI companies could be doing that work if they were given the chance,” Presley said. “My goal is to tear down the glass wall surrounding these multimillion dollar contracts and give Mississippi companies the chance at getting that work.”

Presley said he believes billions could be introduced into the state economy through this rule, as the projects would be less expensive given that crews wouldn’t have to be paid for out-of-state travel costs, and those Mississippians employed would return the revenue to the state via taxes.

This rule is the first of its kind in the country.

“I hope to see this implemented in the whole state, by every state agency, and across the country,” said Presley.

With the rule comes the creation of the Hire Mississippi List. At least four times a year, the utilities will be required to publish notice in newspapers across their territory requesting that local contractors submit their business to be on the list. Mississippi companies on the Hire Mississippi List will receive additional notification of any known upcoming bids for contracts over $200,000 within the scope of goods or services they furnish. Further, no contract will be awarded to any prime contractor without the utility first providing the prime contractor the utility’s Hire Mississippi List for consideration in awarding subcontracts.

The Hire Mississippi List will give utilities and ratepayers the advantage of a more competitive bid process and will provide additional, state-specific information to increase transparency in bidding. The rule requires that utilities proactively reach out and assist potential Mississippi contractors by explaining the bidding process, qualifications and other procurement practices and procedures. It requires that certain big contracts be broken up into separate, smaller scoped contracts to accommodate more bidders. Importantly, the Rule also requires that in filings before the Commission, if an out-of-state firm is selected for a project, the company must explain how they reached that decision.

“I see the Hire Mississippi Rule as just a common sense thing to do for our people and our state. It is about equal access, transparency and growing the pie. And it’s high time we start looking out for our own friends and neighbors who are on the cusp of success but just can’t make that last hurdle because they don’t know the “right” people. Well, they know their Public Service Commissioners and we will not let them slip by the wayside anymore from this day forward,” Presley concluded.

Presley’s proposed rule has already attracted the support of the Associated Builders and Contractors.

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