OUTRAGE: US State government selects Chinese supplier for restoration project


Going with the lowest bidder for a restoration project, officials in Oklahoma City have upset locals in Marble City, a small community in the state, who wonder why the state capitol went with an outside vendor in China, rather than with them.

Located near the Arkansas border, Marble City residents say the state’s decision to restore the Oklahoma Capitol, using marble from a Chinese vendor, is taking money from the state’s economy.

“It’s the Oklahoma state Capitol, so I feel like it should have marble from the state of Oklahoma and not another country,” said Marble City Mayor Tamara Hibbard. “The marble from Marble City is helping our residents that work there, and they’re putting money back into our economy.”

The state counters that it was only following its own law, selecting the lowest-cost bid submitted by a vendor which met the project’s specifications.

The project will replace parts of the capitol’s lowest floor, eventually laying about 25,000 square feet of marble over the next four-years. Bids for the flooring project, estimated at $3.5 million for the surface, came in from several vendors, including Polycor, a manufacturing company that produces marble from a quarry in Marble City.

“Unfortunately, the initial bid utilizing Polycor marble came in at $2 million over that budget amount,” project manager Trait Thompson wrote in an email to lawmakers. “After consulting with the state, the bid was rejected, which is allowable under (state law).”

According to Thompson, even after a second bid package, Polycor’s prices were “so high,” all the subcontractors chose other suppliers in their submissions. The winning bid came in $10,000 under the budgeted cost.

Thompson said Chinese marble is “superior to the quality of the Polycor product in every measurement category,” including bulk density, water absorption and strength.

A state law which requires state projects to use materials manufactured within the state is only applicable if the state materials are more competitive than other options, according to reports.

“The state’s responsibility in this matter is to ensure the project is completed within the allotted budget, ensure that all applicable bidding laws were followed, and ensure the quality of the workmanship and materials used on the Capitol Restoration Project,” Thompson wrote in response to inquiries.

Hibbard says the selection of a foreign supplier may not be the right message to send.

“By selecting foreign materials over local materials for our own state Capitol building, what message is that sending to Oklahomans?” she said. “Does supporting ‘Made in Oklahoma’ businesses mean something different when it comes to our own state legislature?”

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