In the City of Chicago, the Department of Procurement Services (DPS) is the contracting authority for the procurement of goods and services. Through a competitive open bid process, the DPS awards contracts with the goal of securing the best value for the city. By establishing a procurement system that focuses on open communication, timely processes and fair business practices, vendors are able to partner with the city for a variety of contract opportunities.
A City Focused on Small Business
The City of Chicago is committed to promoting the involvement and growth of minority-owned, women-owned and small businesses. Businesses with at least 51% ownership by an individual who is considered to be socially or economically disadvantaged can apply for special business certifications with the DPS. The Airport Concessionaire Disadvantage Business Enterprise (ACDBE), Business Enterprises owned by People with Disabilities (BEPD), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) are all designed to generate increased opportunities for small businesses.[i] One program that takes advantage of these certifications is the appropriately titled Small Business Initiative (SBI). Each quarter, DPS identifies program-appropriate construction projects worth less than $3 million in the city’s buying plan and makes them exclusively available to certified small businesses. [ii]
This focus on creating more opportunities for small businesses to partner with the City of Chicago was highlighted in October of 2016 when DPS announced that more than $400 million was paid out to MBEs and WBEs in the form of awarded contracts between January 2016 to September 2016.[iii]
In addition to these initiatives, in November 2016 the Chicago City Council passed two ordinances to help promote the involvement of small businesses in the procurement process. The first ordinance expands the bid preference from 2% to 4% for city-based businesses employing a permanent, full-time workforce of 50% or more city residents, and can reach as high as 6% so long as the majority of the business’ workforce resides in socio-economically disadvantaged areas of the city.
The second ordinance expands Chicago’s Mentor-Protégé program which offers benefits to prime contractors that act as mentors to minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
Previously, contractors were rewarded with an extra .333% MBE/WBE utilization credit on any contract in which they acted as mentor. Now, under the new ordnance, prime contractors can earn an additional 0.5 percent credit. In addition to the increased credit, a one percent bid preference can be received by prime contractors mentoring MBE/WBE subcontractors and/or working with a subcontractor that is mentoring a MBE/WBE.
While being a small, minority or women-owned business can provide an advantage when bidding with the City of Chicago, it is not a requirement. So long as a business is able provide the goods and/or services requested, that business can bid on a Bid Specification.
Bid Specifications describe the goods and/or services that are being requested by the city. This formal statement provides detailed information on the steps that must be followed when a vendor responds to a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a Request for Qualifications (RFQ).
When submitting a bid, vendors must be certain that they have completed their submissions properly to ensure that they are not disqualified before being evaluated. All information, documentation and price quotations requested by the city must be included at the time of the bid submission. Vendors should pay careful attention to the signatures and/or notarizations required on a document, because providing photocopies (instead of original documents) or missing required signatures can lead to the immediate disqualification of a vendor’s entire bid package.Additionally, if a bid is received after the bid opening date listed in the specification, it will be automatically disqualified. Bid openings are held at 11am at Chicago City Hall and are open to the public.
Continued Growth and Opportunity
With more than 300 contracts awarded each year for approximately $1 billion worth of goods and services, Chicago’s procurement programs provide many contract opportunities for small businesses. Over the past year a number of programs have been created or expanded to provide greater bidding opportunities for small, minority, veteran and women owned businesses. With more than 6,000 vendors registered with the City of Chicago, the Department of Procurement Services is committed to providing a fair and competitive procurement processes for businesses of all sizes.
Kevin McClintock | BidNet.com