San Antonio's newly sworn in City Council Thursday voted unanimously in favor of unbundling a contract for lifesaving defibrillators and supplies so that a local, woman-owned small business could win a share of the estimated $2.4 million procurement agreement.
“Janie, you’re a trailblazer in our community because you are opening the door,” new District 2 Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw told MEDWheels Inc. President and CEO Jane Gonzalez. “Small business builds communities. Never forget that.”
The entire contract was previously set to go to Massachusetts-based medical manufacturing company Zoll Medical Corporation. But Council members put it on hold in February after asking City staff to find a way to give a local company a shot at some of the business.
At the time, San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood had pointed out that the Fire Department had less than 90 days worth of defibrillator supplies on hand. Defibrillators are portable devices that check patients' heart rates and can send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. They are used to treat cardiac arrest, a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.
With Thursday’s vote, the City accepted the MEDWheels bid to provide accessories for the Zoll defibrillator for a total estimated annual amount of $887,000 for two years. The Council also approved Zoll’s bid to provide defibrillators, supplies, and services for a total estimated amount of $324,000 for two years. Both contracts are funded by the Fire Department’s annual budget, with the option to renew for three more years after the two-year contract expires.
“We have been very successful at de-bundling contracts throughout the city," the City’s Deputy Chief Development Officer Troy Elliott said, responding to questions from the Council. "There are a couple of contracts we’re still looking at, particularly on the medical side, and this is one of them. Historically they have been sole-sourced.
“We now have processes in place working with [the City's] Economic Development [Department], working with our stakeholders in the contracting coalition and Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC). So for each procurement that comes through us, we’re looking at that, and we’re looking to see how we can de-bundle that. We have processes in place, and we’re going to keep chipping away at it. We’ve made great strides today. Sole source [contracts] are very limited today compared to five years ago.”
A San Antonio native, Jane Gonzalez served on the City of San Antonio Economic Development Department Diversity Action Plan Oversight Subcommittee in 2014, and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Healthcare & Bioscience Committee in 2013. She is a former board member of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and served on the Community Advisory Council for Accion Texas (now Liftfund).
Gonzalez became emotional when she thanked the Council, City staff, and several chambers of commerce for their work on de-bundling the contract, and introduced David Ray, a regional sales manager for medical technology company Masimo, a supplier to Zoll. Ray, she said, helped her company succeed in meeting the requirements of the contract.
“It is important for all new Council members to understand the importance of SBAC,” Gonzalez said. “There are going to be some new openings coming up. Be very careful who you choose because that can lead to a lot of tremendous work for San Antonio.”
SBAC is a citizen group appointed by the mayor and City Council to advise on issues affecting small businesses in San Antonio. Its Diversity Action Plan subcommittee oversees strategies and tactics aimed at increasing the availability and utilization of minority and women-owned businesses included in a five-year plan adopted by Council in 2013.
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) noted that the un-bundling of the contract was a “long time coming,” and Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) added that Gonzalez has been working on the issue for several years to champion the idea.
“By the very chance of us asking a few extra questions in previous council to try to push it back, to try to de-bundle it, [we] try to make sure a small, local, minority-owned business would be able to take advantage of a piece of this contract,” he said.
“And believe me, we give and award a ton of money and work in the city, and it’s only right that our local folks benefit in some way where they can, where they can bring expertise.”