Building a local supply chain for your project is a vital component of stakeholder engagement
Whether you're proposing to construct a wind or solar farm, new road or railway, fracking site, new housing development or a waste facility of some kind, you're going to need someone to build it for you.
The more you can source locally, the more people will be inclined to support your plans because they'll be able to see a tangible benefit in the form of contracts for local businesses and local job creation/safeguarding.
Buying local can also offer monetary savings, and shorter supply chains are typically more sustainable too.
But the other great advantage is that the search for local service providers, goods suppliers, engineering and construction companies will bring you into direct contact with the local business community. And the people that run and work in them will also often live in the community too, and can help to correct any misconceptions that their friends, families and neighbours might have about your proposals.
To get you started, break down your project into its component parts, draw up a list of products and services you're likely to need, and then identify potential suppliers within a given radius of your development - essentially performing a basic capability assessment. From this, it's easy to gauge the extent to which you might be able to procure locally and you'll have a ready list of businesses you can appeal to.
There are lots of ways to tap into this important stakeholder group. You can:
- run information events
- send literature to local businesses
- host 'meet the buyer' events
- use an online procurement portal
- join existing B2B networking groups
It's important, however, to be both realistic and candid so that local firms can manage their expectations. For instance, with a wind farm, regardless of how big it is, there are only ever going to be limited opportunities for local businesses to participate in the supply chain - usually groundworks, cable trenching, 'muckaway' services, supply of reinforcing bar and delivery of concrete etc - because everything else is so specialised. There's no point raising hopes only to dash them.
Likewise, it's important to coach local suppliers in any industry-specific requirements that might exist, make pre-qualification and contracts as simple as possible (without making them meaningless) and, crucially, to offer some basic feedback to local suppliers that don't make the cut - whether on price, quality or some other measure - or you risk disenfranchising what might otherwise be valuable supporters.
If your proposals are successful and you obtain planning permission and any other approvals you need, it's a good idea to then publicise your local spend and how many jobs your project is supporting once operations commence on site so that all your stakeholders can see the benefits pouring into the community.
Remember, every link in a local supply chain is another link to the community you want to work in and be part of.
Need assistance engaging with the local business community and building a local supply chain? Email theteam [at] 52Mconsulting.com and we'll explain how we can help.