Friday, November 29, 2019

FOOD FIGHT at the Fairgrounds!

The current concessions vendor at the Mississippi Fairgrounds is raising hell because he was forced to bid for the new contract.  The Clarion-Ledger reported:

A family-owned concessions company in Mississippi claims the state fair commission is about to put them out of business, send money out of state, and make a decision that ultimately hurts taxpayers.

It's all about who gets to sell concessions at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds — and whether they should be based in Mississippi.

As commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Andy Gipson has championed buying local food and supporting Mississippi businesses, but the Mississippi Fair Commission was about to pick a French-owned company to run its concessions.

A Mississippi company called Clark & Co. has been the exclusive concession company at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds for about 20 years, meaning they provide concessions to almost every event hosted at the Coliseum or fairgrounds, though not the actual Mississippi State Fair.

Clark & Co. challenged the recommendation to pick the French-owned company, and the commission held a special meeting Tuesday morning to consider the eight-year contract.

It's not a typical state contract.

It does not require a bidding process because Clark & Co. pays the state to have the right to be the concessionaire at events such as rodeos or horse shows...

Gipson explained that this year the commission decided to issue a bid for the contract, and two companies responded — Clark & Co. and Valley Services, which is owned by Elior, a French company.

According to its website, Valley Services operated in Mississippi before merging with an Elior company in 2013, and it lists a Flowood address.

Bob Graves, a special assistant attorney general, said both bids were evaluated on several factors, including price, past performance and history, and Valley Services scored higher than Clark & Co.

Both Valley Services and Clark & Co. made commitments to pay the state fair commission. As explained in the meeting, Valley Services would promise to pay at least $175,000 the first year of the contract, while Clark & Co. promised to pay $3,000 every month.

Both also agreed to pay a commission to the state on money made from some concession sales....

Christopher claimed that Valley Services' proposal allows them to renegotiate with the state, while Clark & Co. is offering a firm commitment that will pay out more over time.

"You can't look at Valley's bid and tell what you're getting," Christopher said.

Plus, Christopher said Valley Services would only pay commission on net sales, while Clark & Co. would pay commission on gross sales.

It seems like a small distinction — "net" versus "gross" — but Christopher said a capable accountant working at a big company can manipulate net sales to ensure the state gets no money from commission.... Article

Kingfish note: The so-called French company is reputable and has been operating in the Jackson metro area for years. Don't know if it still does but when yours truly was in school, Valley ran the cafeteria at Hinds at Raymond and I think MC also.

Questions: Does Clark have a right to a no-bid contract?

Truth is, the concessions at the Fairgrounds leave much to be desired and can't even be compared to similar venues in other states. Competition is a good thing and if it improves the service, food, and prices in this case, JJ is all for it.

Too many local fat cats get fat because they scream local while offering poor service or product.  Right, Siemens subcontractors?


Anonymous said...

a win for the free market

Anonymous said...

Like the Farmers' Market Restaurant? There's no way that contract smacks of nepotism.

Cynical Sam said...

Those free "business" trips to Paris could disappear.

Anonymous said...

Valley Foods was not only "located" in Mississippi, it was owned and headquartered in Flowood, MS for decades. If the family sold it to the so-called "French company" it is no more an "out-of-state" company than operations such as Viking Range (Greenwood), Irby Electric/Construction (Jackson), Venture Technologies (Ridgeland), or Bomgar (Ridgeland) are Mississippi companies - all of which were started, grew and sold/merged with international firms.

Or that our wonderful news source, the Clarion Ledger, is not a Mississippi paper.

Looks like the Clark's lost their gravy train that they have had for decades and don't like the fact that the new Commissioner decided to bring some competition for this lucrative contract to the state.

Sour grapes are not worth eating. If Clark can't stand the heat of competition and is going to lose what appears to be their only client, sounds to me like they need to pack it up and find a new business venture (or a new politician that will let them create a "family company" that can operate without competition.

Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself said...

So Clark pays off the state to be the exclusive concessionaire...sounds about right for Mississippi - how is this not illegal?. And when did saving money become bad for taxpayers? I'm sure that Clark gave themselves a nice YOY increase for all those years.

Anonymous said...

Valley also runs the Trustmark caffetieria on the 8th floor of the Trustmark building for anyone that eats there.

Kingfish said...

So one guy gets it for 20 years and wants it no bid. Why not take it in-house instead of making someone rich?

Anonymous said...

Valley fingerprinted my child at a local school without my prior authorization.

Anonymous said...

Some candidate(s) did not get his hand greased appropriately during the 2019 campaign. That's the only thing that could keep this gravy train rolling for 20 years.

Epstein's Fingerprints Weren't On The Sheet.. said...

Wow. This smacks of favoritism.

Anonymous said...

8:00 - why use the name "anonymous"? You should instead use "Cynic".

You assume that this couldn't be the result of someone who didn't even consider getting "his hand greased" in the last election but rather just trying to find a better, more profitable method of operating the agency?

Maybe it was a different situation, Mr. Anonymous Cynic.

Could have been that the politician didn't seek to get his "hand greased" and therefore didn't have a need to continue the no-bid, sole-source contract that the Clark family evidently has depended on for years as the sole customer of their "family business".

At least that's the way it appears to me - and I'm not particularly a fan of the Ag Commissioner - in fact, think that we shouldn't have an elected Ag Commissioner. But that's not relevant to this discussion. Rather, I'm glad to see that he is looking for ways to improve the services that his office oversees and 'questioning' the status quo contracts seems like a good place to start.

But for the Clark's to claim that Valley isn't a local company as their strongest basis for their complaining is ridiculous. Valley has been feeding folks throughout Mississippi for decades out of their Flowood MISSISSIPPI operation, and providing much more in services than Clark has ever thought of doing under their small concessions on the fairgrounds.

Anonymous said...

Valley would do a good job, hire local, they act local. Value to the consumer seems to not be in the equation.

Kingfish said...

Almost anything would be an improvement over the crap concessions currently offered.

Word I get is suggestions such as improving the offerings, having the employees wear standard clothes, and others were completely ignored.

No one has a right to a no-bid state contract in perpetuity. No one.

Anonymous said...

"Valley fingerprinted my child at a local school without my prior authorization. "

So what did your kid steal? ;-)

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