January 20, 2019

Local Preference

Iowa’s laws do not contain any provisions permitting a public owner to restrict, qualify or otherwise limit or differentiate or discriminate against a bidder on a public construction project because of it location (i.e. city, county, state).  Such local preference specifications are generally considered to be discriminatory and illegal and should be strictly avoided under Iowa’ competitive bidding laws.

To MBI’s knowledge, there have been two district court opinions which have addressed the local preference issue.  In one, Hudson v. City of Mason City, the court voided a contract let to a “local” contractor even though the contractor was not the low bidder.  In another, the district court permitted a similar award to stand.  The losing contractor appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court but the ruling was based on the protesting contractor’s lack of standing, not the merits of the case. (See Garling Construction v. City of Shellsburg, 641 N.W. 2d 522 (Iowa 2002).


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