Case Study

County of San Diego expands supplier base, contracts more local and small businesses


September 2023

The County of San Diego provides public services to the entire region, as well as critical infrastructure to its unincorporated areas. The agency’s strategic plan includes goals to help dismantle barriers to expanding opportunities for traditionally underserved communities and businesses, especially for low-income and people of color, and to advance opportunities for economic growth and development for all individuals across San Diego.


The County of San Diego’s purchasing and contracting department spends approximately $2 billion annually on goods and services, ranging from healthcare and engineering services to food and art supplies. In June 2021, and in alignment with EDC’s Inclusive Growth agenda, the County Board of Supervisors directed the Chief Administrative Officer to refine their community engagement process and to develop new service delivery, contracting, and procurement policies to expand opportunities for underrepresented communities in San Diego.


EDC worked with the County’s purchasing and contracting department to help identify an expanded supplier base for the goods and services most sought by the County. EDC’s Research team reviewed all the County’s contract awards for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, summarizing total awards and amounts by geography, industry, and firm size. In its analysis, EDC identified key spend categories where contracts are being awarded to vendors outside of the region, especially where local capacity exists. The analysis provided the County’s purchasing and contracting department with a list of local prospective suppliers that far exceeds its list of registered vendors, which will enable the agency to proactively outreach to businesses outside of its system, including small businesses and those in underrepresented communities across San Diego.


The County’s purchasing and contracting department leveraged the EDC analysis to expand future contract solicitations where its existing vendor pools are limited and leverage its large prime contractors to reach a new pool of small suppliers via sub-contracting. In the following fiscal year 2022-2023, the County awarded 1,212 new contracts—three percent more than the year prior. Importantly, both the number and proportion of local awards and small business awards increased as well. The proportion of local awards increased by 2.2 percentage points and the proportion of small business awards increased by 10.7 percentage points.

For a copy of San Diego County’s spend report, click here.

Call to action

Anchor institutions, such as universities and hospitals—as well as utilities, local government, and even sports teams—are physically bound to the region and create shared value while advancing the economic conditions of the communities in which they operate. As big buyers, local anchors can drive inclusive economic growth with small shifts in their procurement. To learn how your purchasing can support small and diverse suppliers, visit and get involved in EDC’s Anchor Collaborative.

“EDC was able to highlight areas of opportunity for the County to more proactively outreach to new businesses in our region that are not currently selling to us, directly supporting our mission to provide services through open, inclusive, and transparent contracting practices.”

– Jack Pellegrino, Director of Purchasing and Contracting, County of San Diego

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