One of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston has consistently been a world leader in innovation, education and entrepreneurship. With a population of over 650,000, Boston is the largest city in both Massachusetts and New England, and is the twenty-third largest city in the nation. Also home to America’s first public school, today Boston serves 57,000 students in 145 schools and is home to some of the country’s top colleges and universities.
Boston accommodates 350,000 international students who collectively contribute $4.8 billion to the city’s economy every year. Thanks to the city’s participation with local, state and federal government initiatives, Boston provides many opportunities for third-party vendors to do business with city departments and agencies.
Doing Business with the City of Boston
Vendors interested in doing business with the City of Boston must first register with the city’s supplier portal by filling out a Vendor Registration Form. Business owners can sign up as an individual or business; if registering as a business, you will be able to add multiple users to your account. By registering with the portal, vendors are then able to receive electronic notifications about contract opportunities, submit bids online and sign contracts electronically. This is a huge benefit that lets vendors sign contracts on the spot and get right to work after a contract has been signed.
Generally, the city of Boston posts four types of bids:
- Invitation for Bid (IFB)
- Request for Proposal (RFP)
- Request for Information (RFI)
- Emergency Bid
Projects worth between $10,000 and $35,000 require written bids from at least three vendors, but no standard contract format is required. Contracts worth more than $35,000 are required to be advertised and made available for any vendor to submit a bid. These projects also require a standard contract. Bid advertisements for these opportunities must be placed in the City Record and appear every Monday, detailing the following week’s opportunities.
Vendors that are awarded a city contract will first receive a Purchase Order, at which time they can begin work. For the most part City bids are distributed electronically, but some are required to be on paper. In these cases, bid documents must be picked up or delivered by mail, and bids must be submitted in a sealed envelope.
(Source: n.p. City of Boston. Procurement. How Boston’s Bidding Process Works. 8 Jul. 2016. Web. 8 Nov. 2016)
Supplier Diversity Program (SDP)
The supplier Diversity Program was created to increase the number of contract opportunities available to Minority-owned, woman-owned, Veteran-owned and Service-Disabled Veteran-owned businesses. To meet Diversity Program goals, departments can purchase goods and services in two ways:
Direct Spending – Departments can purchase goods and services directly from approved entities.
Indirect Spending – Requires all vendors to make a commitment to work with Diversity Program entities and to report on the outcomes of awarded contracts.
The SDP applies to any contract worth more than $150,000 and can only be awarded to businesses that are certified as a disadvantaged entity in Massachusetts.
(Source: n.p. Supplier Diversity Office. Administration and Finance. Supplier Diversity Program Overview. 2016. Web. 8 Nov. 2016)
Small Business Purchasing Program (SBPP)
The Operational Services Division is responsible for the procurement and management of contracts and also operates the Small Business Purchasing Program (SBPP). The SBPP was established to support the growth of small businesses and gives special consideration to small businesses during the procurement process for contracts worth less than $150,000.
The eligibility requirements for entities under the Small Business Purchasing Program are:
- The principal place of business must be in Massachusetts;
- The business must have been in operation for at least one year;
- The business must employ a combined total of 50 or less full time employees across all locations;
- The business’ gross revenues must be $15 million or less, based on a three-year average.
A business claiming to be a for-profit entity needs to be organized under the laws of the Massachusetts commonwealth or registered to do business with the commonwealth and must be independently owned and operated. For businesses claiming to be non-profit, they must be registered as such, be up to date with tax filings and be officially tax-exempt.
(Source: n.p. Supplier Diversity Office. Administration and Finance. Small Business Purchasing Program. 2016. Web. 8 Nov. 2016)
Where Does the Money Go?
In 2016 the city of Boston’s total budget was $2.86 billion, an increase of $121.8 million from 2015. Of the 2016 total, $1.91 billion was spent on the city’s capital improvement budget. Below is a breakdown of where some of the money went:
- Education: $353.2 million
- Public Safety: $150.6 million
- Street maintenance: $755.6 million
- Information Technology: $89.37 million
- Health & Human Services: $47.35 million
(Source: City of Boston. Budget. Boston’s Budget Data. 2016. Web. 3 Jan. 2017)
In 2016, Boston created the “Building a Better Boston” capital Improvement plan. The plan is expected to continue for five years with a budget of $1.9 billion. The goals of the plan are to:
- Create strategic use of infrastructure that will promote economic development, vitality of neighborhoods, quality education, health care and public safety;
- Comprehensively plan to lay a strong foundation for the city’s future growth;
- Create effective government management to deliver necessary and efficient municipal services.
The plan focuses on six areas in particular, including:
- Parks – Renovations, restoration and improvements
- Schools – maintenance and upkeep
- Public Safety – Construction of new police stations and renovations to existing fire stations
- Streets- improvements for pedestrians, bicyclist, and drivers including a $6 million investment for Smart parking meters
- Innovation and Technology – Expand fiber optic network as well as investing in tools for better digital engagement
- Community Spaces – renovations to community centers and libraries
(Source: City of Boston. Budget. Fiscal Year 2016 Capital Planning. 2016. Web. 3 Jan. 2017)
With this five-year plan just getting underway, there are currently many opportunities to work with the public sector in Boston, especially for vendors in the construction, architecture and engineering and Information Technology industries. If you do not work in those industries don’t count yourself out - major projects require other related services as well, such as electrical, plumbing, planning and design services, just to name a few. The best way to keep an eye out for opportunities is to register your business with the city and start receiving notifications for upcoming bids.
Danielle Calamaras | BidNet.com