Though the council's vote was split, it showed both competing firms had something to offer to the county, according to County Council Chair Ed Kelley.
The Volusia County Council voted 4-3 to begin contract negotiations with federal lobbyist firm Becker on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and the council hopes having a presence in Washington D.C. will open new opportunities for Volusia.
“I look forward to the negotiation and a long-term successful relationship," County Council Chair Ed Kelley said.
Becker was one of seven firms to apply, but the council only asked for presentations from it and Maryland firm, The Color Nine Group LLC. Though based in Ft. Lauderdale, Becker is a seven-person bipartisan firm operating in Washington D.C. since 2011. Kelley, along with council members Joyce Cusack, Billie Wheeler and Deb Denys voted in favor of selecting Becker.
The split vote was not necessarily a bad thing, according to Kelley.
“It shows we listened and you both had something to present,” Kelley said.
Omar Franco, the managing director of Becker’s Washington D.C. office, described his firm as a "boutique" practice with a "unique balance" between public entities and private sector corporations. When asked by Denys what commercial opportunities the firm felt were on the cusp for the county, Clarence Williams, senior government relations consultant for Becker, mentioned sparking qualified opportunity zone funds in the county as well as building an aerospace industry, since the area has the potential to do so with the presence of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
“There’s the talent here to do it," Williams said. "There’s the space here to do it, and all you need really is the impetus and the capital.”
Kelley said he believes a contract with a federal lobbyist firm will benefit the entire county, and if it produces the good results he expects, that there is a possibility to expand lobbying services in the future.
The County Council also voted unanimously to begin contract negotiations with Southern Strategy Group Inc. for state lobbyist services.