I recently attended a Buyer/Vender Forum presented by Agenda for Building Capacity (ABC) in Fort Worth. ABC—a collaborative of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Texas, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Tarrant County Asian American Chamber of Commerce—was formed to provide an integrated program of technical assistance, training, and introductions to contracting opportunities for Fort Worth and Tarrant County based Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) and Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs). The forums are held quarterly* and consist of vendor booths, networking, and a program featuring contracting process overviews, tips, and how to’s from featured guests—public and private entities that have programs and contracting opportunities available for HUBs and MWBEs.*see below for a schedule
The forum I attended featured speakers from the City of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Independent School District, JPS Health Network, Tarrant County, Tarrant County College District, and the Trinity River Vision Authority (which for those of you not familiar with the project, is a major development project on the Trinity River that will result in a San Antonio Riverwalkesqe area near downtown Fort Worth). Each of the speakers provided an overview of the contracting process, how to register and access their posting and bidding systems, and a view into current open bids.
The information provided was extremely helpful and illustrated that there is a wide variety of opportunities available . . . if you know where to look and can navigate the bidding processes. Of course, there were the usual capital improvement/construction projects out for bid but there were also opportunities to bid on a wide variety of other types of contracts such as, printing, nutrition services and catering, copier maintenance, janitorial services, building maintenance, and industrial or specialized supplies.
Not sure how to navigate the process? Here are five tips from the session to get you started:
1) Register with the Public Purchase (P2) website. Once registered you can sign up to receive electronic notification of contracts open to bid from hundreds of agencies both within and outside of Texas.
2) Create a structured approach to checking for opportunities. JPS, Tarrant County, and the Tarrant County College District do not push opportunities to registered users. Thus, you will need to visit theses sites on a regular basis to determine if there is an opportunity available for you. This can be time consuming, but if you create a routine (i.e. checking the sites the second Friday of each month) you’ll eventually be able to streamline your efforts and determine which sites are best for you to watch.
3) Get certified and preregister. First, if you’re eligible, obtain your certification as a MWBE (information and seminars on certification in Fort Worth can be found here and additional information can be found at www.mwbe.com). Second, once you have your certification (or even if you’re not eligible as a MWBE) preregister as a vendor with any entity/on any site that allows you to do so. Preregistering will ensure your information is in the entities system and will allow you to focus on your bid/proposal and not on your registration when an appropriate opportunity arises.
4) FOLLOW ALL THE BID PROCESSES INSTRUCTIONS! Many of the speakers commented on how often what appeared to be a promising bid or submittal from a new vendor had to be rejected because required information was missing or incomplete. Keep in mind that government agencies or government-funded projects come with a set of mandatory information requirements and bid procedures. Don’t inadvertently remove yourself from the running by forgetting to dot an “i” or cross a “t”!
5) Don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are contact numbers listed by entity (and often specifically in the bid information itself). If you have a question on the process, a quick call will usually resolve the issue and prevent you from making a potentially bid-disqualifying mistake.
*Future ABC Vendor Forums In Fort Worth
May 16, 2012 – Intermodal Transportation Center, 1001 Jones Street, Fort Worth
August 22, 2o12 – Tarrant County Public Health Building, 1101 South Main Street, Fort Worth
October 24, 2012 – Intermodal Transportation Center, 1001 Jones Street, Fort Worth
(Not in Texas or the Fort Worth area? Check out your local small business development centers and chambers of commerce, if they don’t have a similar program share this blog & the links with them & encourage them to start one!).