With a population of 2.2 million, Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States but is ranked as the largest city in the Southern portion of the U.S. In 2015, total government spending in Houston was $4.791 billion; compared with Texas’s next three largest cities, Houston’s budget is almost double that of San Antonio, Dallas or Austin.
Doing Business with the City of Houston
If you’re interested in doing business with the City of Houston and would like to bid on City contracts, you first need to register your company as a City supplier and submit a W-9 form, as without the form you will not be accepted as a potential bidder. Once your company is registered you will receive a supplier/vendor number, which will identify you as a bidder and will allow agencies to identify the products and services you sell. Only those businesses that register with the City will have access to bid information and RFP documents. With this access, vendors are able to view projected procurement opportunities, current bids/RFPs, closed bids and tabulations, and will also be able to download solicitations, attachments and view pre-bid and pre-proposal schedules.
Houston uses NIGP commodity codes to categorize the specific products and services that they purchase and also to identify the vendors that they will purchase from. The City uses six different types of solicitations: Purchase Orders, Emergency Purchase Orders, formal bids, informal bids, RFPs, construction contracts under $500K and Purchasing cards (which are used by employees for last-minute or emergency purchases).
Hire Houston First Program
The Hire Houston First Program was created by Houston Mayor Annise Parker and was put in place to distribute economic opportunities among local Houston businesses. The program gives businesses a fair chance to work with the government by giving vendor preference to local businesses as long as they provide competitive pricing. For contracts worth $100k or more, Houston businesses can be awarded the contract if their pricing is within 3% of the lowest bid of a vendor from outside the city. For contract awards that are less than $100k, the local business’ bid needs to be within 5% of the lowest bid to be the winner.[i]
The Office of Business Opportunity provides programs and services for small businesses looking to work with the government and helps vendors to excel in a competitive bidding environment. Through the OBO, vendors can benefit from one-on-one counseling, attend seminars and workshops and get help with becoming certified as a small business or MWBE. It is highly recommended that small businesses and MWBE, DBEs, VBE/DVBEs become officially certified with government agencies, as these certifications can help their chances of becoming a vendor for the government and also increase their odds of winning contracts.
Finding Bids and RFPs
Texas is one of the top 10 states in terms of number of government contracts awarded each year, so finding open bids and RFPs from the City of Houston is fairly easy for interested vendors. Companies looking to do business with Houston can start by searching the City of Houston’s Strategic Purchasing Division database for open bids, RFPs and tabulations. Vendors can also find bids through the Texas Bid System, also known as the Texas Purchasing Group, part of BidNet’s Sourcesuite Procurement Solutions. Without a subscription to BidNet, vendors must register directly with the Texas Purchasing Group to view open bids; alternatively, vendors can subscribe to one of BidNet’s service plans and gain access to all of the regional purchasing groups in the U.S.
No matter what industry you’re in, opportunities to bid on government contracts are available in Houston. Regardless of where you are located or the size of your company, there are plenty of open government contracts out there that will align with your service offer. Finding the right ones for your business is the first step toward becoming a vendor for the City of Houston.Danielle Calamaras | BidNet.com
[i] n.p. Hire Houston First Program. City of Houston. purchasing.houstontx.gov. 2015. Web. 16 Dec. 2015