With a population of 684,451, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The eighteenth largest city in the nation, Seattle was ranked as the fastest-growing city in the U.S. in 2013; today it remains in the top five. In the nineteenth century Seattle was known as America’s shipbuilding center and was one of the West coast’s few commercial hubs. During World War II the city evolved into a center for aircraft manufacturing partly thanks to the presence of the Boeing corporation and, by the 80s, Seattle became a technology center after Microsoft chose to build its headquarters in the city (followed by Amazon in the 90s). Thanks to progressive government policies and an ongoing effort to develop a green economy, Seattle is considered America’s number one “smarter city”.
Doing Business with the City of Seattle
Vendors that would like to do business with the City of Seattle must first register with the city’s Online Business Directory. Seattle’s Purchasing and Contract Services department is responsible for all bids worth more than $49,000 annually; this department posts about 600 one-time bids per year and maintain roughly 1,100 blanket contracts for products that are needed on a consistent basis. Any purchases valued at less than $8,000 per item or $49,000 per year are considered small purchases and the city allows the departments to source these directly from suppliers of their choosing.
Seattle posts contract opportunities either in the form of an Invitation to Bid (ITB) or Request for Proposal (RFP), and vendors that are awarded contracts must obtain a Seattle business license and, when applicable, a Washington state business license.
(Source: n.p. Finance & Administrative Services Department. City Purchasing & Contracting. City Purchasing. 2016. Web. 4 Nov. 2016)
If you are a vendor and want to bid on consulting contracts, the first thing you need to do is get your company added to the City Consultant Roster. Each Seattle city department manages its own contracts for consultant services and maintains a vendor roster. The departments are allowed to use their internal vendor roster when they are soliciting bids estimated to be worth $289,000 or less. If the contract is worth less than $49,000, a public advertisement is not required and the department can choose any consultant they wish. Certain projects worth between $49,000 and $289,000 are advertised for two days in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce as well as on the city website.
(Source: n.p. Finance & Administrative Services Department. City Purchasing & Contracting. Consultant Contracting. 2016. Web. 4 Nov. 2016)
Public Works Contracts
Vendors interested in public works contracts can find opportunities posted in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce and online at the eBid portal. The city may issue Job Order Contracts (JOC) where city departments will be responsible for the design of the project; in this case plans and specifications for bids will also be posted if necessary. For facility or utility projects worth $350,000 or less the city may issue work orders directly to JOC prime vendors. The city can also award up to $4 million per year to JOC prime vendors who are picked through the competitive bid process. State law requires that prime contractors subcontract ninety percent of the work of each work order they receive.
(Source: n.p. Finance & Administrative Services Department. City Purchasing & Contracting. Public Works – Job Order Contracting. 2016. Web. 4 Nov. 2016)
Bidding on Local Government Contracts May Be More Beneficial
For vendors, bidding on government contracts at any level is worth the effort, but there may be particular advantages to bidding on contracts in cities where a business operates as it may provide access to additional incentives.
If you are a vendor, to improve your chances of winning a bid register with all vendor lists the city maintains as well as with each department you are interested in working with. Research the different departments of the city’s administration, find out which ones may be best for you to do business with, reach out to them and find out who they already work with and what types of contracts they solicit for. If you can, discover details about the previous amounts awarded for contracts you want to pursue, as this information can help you when going after a bid in the future.
As with any new pursuit, government contracting can at times be overwhelming, so start small. You can always expand your search in the future once you’re comfortable with working in the public sector. By keeping yourself well-informed and prepared for the realities of public-sector contracting, you should have no problem bidding on and winning contracts.
Danielle Calamaras | BidNet.com