Local businesses question vendor selection process
by Glendale Chamber of Commerce on December 12th, 2016

​By DARRELL JACKSON, The Glendale Star

As the annual Glendale Glitters celebration continues to showcase the city’s award-winning events, some local business owners are questioning the city’s focus on Glendale First when it comes to promoting local businesses.

“As long as they meet the minimum requirements, absolutely, we give them a priority,” said Kim Larson, Glendale Public Facilities, Recreation and Special Events spokesperson. “There are times, especially when they are brand new to the industry, that we will call them to chat and make sure they have a clear vision of what to expect.”

According to city documents, the minimum requirements are, “a menu with pricing, photos of products and booth set up, and a $25 application fee.”

Larson said, “We make sure they understand the volume of our crowds and the expectations,” Larson said. “Sometimes, their applications do not indicate they have experience with large outdoor festivals.”

But numerous local vendors within the city contacted The Glendale Star with questions about what the selection process is for the four major events held downtown.
Application and selection process

The city hosts four major events between the end of November and early February, beginning with the Glitters Spectacular (opening weekend of Glendale Glitters), December (Glitters) weekends, Glitter and Glow Block Party and the Chocolate Affaire.

“For all of our vendor categories, food included, we try to provide the largest variety of the items we know historically have done well, to serve our patrons’ different interests,” Larson said. “We are proud of the festivals we produce and the job we do in producing them. Our operation is well respected by industry peers and known throughout the Valley as one of the best festival production and vending operations teams in the state.”

Each vendor is required to submit an application, which asks basic questions, such as business name and address, as well as a $25 non-refundable fee.

“We instituted an application fee to help qualify the prospects and pare down the number of applications we receive,” Larson said.

The application also asks vendors if they would like a 10x10 prime booth, which is an additional $150, or a 10x20 prime spot, which is $200 more.

Each approved vendor is provided with a two-plug, 20 AMP outlet, but they can request additional power for an additional $25 to $100.

“Our department comes with a lot of experience in the industry,” Larson said. “We are producing large outdoor festivals with crowds ranging from 35,000 to 80,000 attendees.”
Applicants are required to supply two photos of products, as well as a photo of their booth set-up at an event.

Once the application process closes, a jury of staff reviews them for final selection.
“A staff jury is rotated each season to ensure fairness and fresh perspective,” Larson said. “Once the jury has made their decisions, the Special Events Department reviews those selections and finalizes them.”

Larson did not confirm from which departments, or how many members of the jury there are.
After the jury has made selections of the vendors, Special Events coordinator Dawn Simms and Special Events division manager Martin Dickey “review those selections and finalize them, keeping in mind the criteria of these outdoor festival productions done in parks, streets and open areas.”

Once a vendor is approved, they then pay $65 for a background check, which is done independently.

“Clarifacts is an employment background screening company headquartered in Phoenix, which provides background checks and drug-testing services,” Larson said. “We partner with them to ensure thorough, accurate vendor background checks.”

All food vendors are required to purchase any bottled beverages (water, soda and ice) from Kalil Bottling – an official city sponsor – at $15 per case and must sell them for $2 apiece.
“Kalil is a product sponsor of water, soda, tea and energy drinks,” Larson said. “This is standard practice in the industry and we exclusively use their products through our vendors and our own beverage concession and receive donations of products (from Kalil) in return.”

Special Events is a city division and is funded through the city budget to the tune of $669,315.
Vendors who participate are required to pay 20 percent of their gross income to the city, which helps offset the cost of events. Larson said the city estimates the revenue to be approximately $250,000 from vendors.

“The additional revenue we generate to help offset the production costs for our special events also comes from event sponsorships ($86,000), parking ($55,000), and miscellaneous ($40,000),” Larson said. “As the mission of Glendale’s special events is to promote and brand downtown Glendale as a destination to attract new visitors and shoppers, and foster community pride among residents, the Special Events Division does its absolute best to maximize revenue to offset our production costs so we can continue to provide free admission to our community festivals.”  

Staff announces Glendale First

White Eyes Fry Bread owners John and Alice Roach said they met with former Councilmember Gary Sherwood about the vendor application process in 2013, after numerous denials without explanation.

“We were invited to meet (with Sherwood) and he told us to sit down with (Special Events division manager Martin Dickey) to explain the process to us.”

Roach said after that meeting, none of their questions were answered.

“It seemed like a big round-about because they told us they basically pick the vendors that are going to be the biggest revenue earner for the city because that is what they survive on.”
When Glendale Chamber of Commerce President Robert Heidt took over in 2014, concerns were brought up by local business owners questioning the selection process for vendors at city events.

“After I heard about local business being denied and not getting an explanation, I began to wonder why,” Heidt said. “I started asking questions about the issues being brought up by local business owners.”

Roach said he mentioned this during public comments at a council meeting in 2014, but no official ordinance has ever been brought to council to vote on.

“During (Mayor Jerry) Weiers’ first campaign, his mantra was pushing Glendale first, but nothing has changed,” Roach said. “Since (Heidt) took over and we mentioned it to him, he has been very helpful, but I believe more has to be done.”

Both Roach and Heidt said that in 2014, after questions were originally raised to city staff, they were told that the events would now be focused on promoting local businesses. After a public confrontation between a former city manager and Heidt, staff began telling people that they would focus on local business first when it came to the events.

“We were told on numerous times that city staff would be focusing on local business before any out-of-area vendors would be,” Roach said.

Several business owners have questioned as to why they have been denied numerous applications to be included at any of the city-sponsored events in order to showcase local businesses.

“Our issue really is with the entire process and not being able to get into these special events with no explanation at all,” said Roach. “Over the past nine years (or 36 event applications), we have been denied 28 times.”

Roach added that it is not just the denials, but the fact that they cannot get any information as to why they were denied. He said the only time city staff has contacted him about this issue was from a former assistant city manager.

“All we get is a form letter that says we were denied, with nothing in it as to why,” Roach said.

“Then I got a call from (then assistant city manager Jennifer) Campbell during an event that city staff was attending in Dallas, apologizing for our denial. She then told me that the city was going to promote local businesses for city events.”

Campbell told Heidt later that the city had put in place a process that would focus on local business first before any others, but it was never brought to council for a vote and nothing has come from it to date.

“I should have been more consistent, but I thought we could take the city at face value,” Heidt said. “The fact that this issue has already taken more than two plus years is just completely unacceptable.”

Heidt and two other Glendale business owners, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, confirmed the story of Campbell saying the city would be focusing on local businesses. Heidt said he was with city staff in Dallas and was pulled aside and told about the new focus.

“I thought we came to a conclusion when Campbell contacted us about this and told me (then acting City Manager Dick Bowers) was going to focus on this,” Heidt said. “She told me a week later that this was officially in place and that the city was going to get this done.”

Larson said the city tries to focus on local first, but doesn’t guarantee selection.

“At this time, we absolutely give priority to local businesses when appropriate. As long as they’re a qualified vendor in good standing with the city, they are considered,” Larson said. “If they are local, they are given a higher weight of consideration.”

Heidt wonders if the city does that and pointed to a local downtown vendor who has been denied placing a table in front of his business during the events.

“(Cuff Restaurant) asked if he could place a table in front of his business (on Glendale Avenue) during the events and the city told him no,” Heidt said. “Antique shops and others put tables out year round, but are told not to during special events? These are our community shops and they invest in our community, but not allowing them to best increase their presence? That is just wrong.”

Heidt said he will continue to push for changes in the selection process and promote local businesses.

“What is rubbing people wrong is that we are not giving up on this issue,” Heidt said. “I thought we had finally come to a conclusion and my only complaint was that I should have continued to push city staff on that. But I took them at face value and it (the city) has not continued what we were told.”

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