Pennsylvania, also known as the Keystone State, is home to over 12 million people and is the fifth-most populous state in the U.S. With 50 Fortune 500 companies located in the state, Pennsylvania is home to many thriving industries, a strong economy and is a great place to start and grow your business. There are five top industries in Pennsylvania that drive most of the economic activity in the state:
- Oil & Gas and Mining
- Services (personal, business, and community services)
In addition to these strong sectors of activity, many other industries are thriving and innovating in Pennsylvania. Beyond the private sector, a robust public purchasing sector is continually generating a wide variety of opportunities for third-party vendors at both the state and local level.
Doing Business with the State of Pennsylvania
When looking to do business with the State of Pennsylvania, the best way to get started is by visiting their procurement website. There you can find procurement resources, forms, registrations, and small business program information. Before you can begin bidding on opportunities and supplying your services to the state, you first must register as a vendor on their supplier registration portal. Once registered, it’s important to understand the procurement procedures that are in place for the state, which can be found through the Department of General Services (DGS):
- ≤ $10,000 – small no-bid procurements, no documents, an agency may act as a purchasing agency
- $10,000.01 - $100,000 – formal method of procurement, an agency may act as a purchasing agency
- > $100,000 – formal method of procurement, DGS may delegate authority to make procurements to an agency
- ≤ $10,000 - small no-bid procurements, no documents, an agency may act as a purchasing agency
- $10,000.01 - $250,000 - formal method of procurement, an agency may act as a purchasing agency
- > $250,000 - formal method of procurement, DGS/Agency delegated
(Source: Part I Chapter 07 Thresholds and Delegations. “PDF”, 10 Aug. 15.)
Small no-bid purchases – competitive bids are not required. The agency must obtain a written record of the purchase receiving a cash register receipt, invoice, or commonwealth purchasing card receipt from the supplier.
Formal Method – competitive bidding is required in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP) or an Invitation for Bid (IFB).
Depending on the size of the of the contract, procurement and payment bonds may be required. These are usually provided in the form of a certified check or bid bond typically amounting to 50-100% of the total contract price.
Small Diverse Businesses
The State of Pennsylvania has a Small Diverse Businesses program operated by the Department of General Services (DGS) for businesses that qualify as a minority, women, service-disabled, LGBT, and disability-owned enterprises. There you can find how to become certified, what qualifications are needed, and the procurement policies in place for these types of businesses.
Lastly, once your business is ready to find bid opportunities in the State of Pennsylvania you can visit their e-Marketplace portal to find information about upcoming bid opportunities, solicitations, and awards.
Bidding in the City of Philadelphia
The City of Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and is a great place to start a business. By visiting their procurement website, you can find all you need to know to start bidding on opportunities in the city. To begin using the contracting website you first need to register as a vendor. Once registered, you can view open bids and search for specific contracts and bids that are currently available. Those bids are found on their Open Bids website. The procurement department outlines the types of bids and methods used when making a purchase, which include:
- Advertised Bids – apply to services, supplies or equipment that exceed $25,000. These bids are formal competitive bids that require advertising in local newspapers
- Concession Bids – offer the opportunity to provide goods and services on City property
- Public Works Bids – Bids for construction, repair, alteration or improvement of a public building, property street, bridge, highway, or sewer
- Small Purchase Orders – are informal bids for procurements of $32,000 and under. Can directly solicit for goods and services $25,000 and under and competitive quotes are required
- Surplus Property Bids – bids offer surplus city equipment or supplies to the highest bidder
(Source: City of Philadelphia: Contracts and Procurement. 11 May. 20. https://www.phila.gov/water/aboutus/buswithpwd/Pages/Procurement.aspx)
Minority, Women, or Disabled-Owned Enterprises (M/W/DSBEs)
The City of Philadelphia also has a program to register as a M/W/DSBE with the Office of Economic Opportunity. Once your business is certified and registered you will receive opportunities and preference in the contracting process. Before registering it’s important to check out the qualifications that go into applying as a M/W/DSBE to make sure your business meets the requirements. A few of the qualifications are as follows:
- Firm must be managed and operated by the minority, women, or disabled owner
- Meets all the requirements of a small business defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA)
- A for-profit firm that’s at least 51% minority, women, or disabled-owned
(Source: “M/W/DSBE Certification.” The Enterprise Center. 11 May. 20. https://www.theenterprisecenter.com/certification)
The City of Philadelphia provides a plethora of opportunities for all types of businesses. If you’re interested in bidding on opportunities in this city, it’s never too late to get started.
Bidding in the City of Pittsburgh
The City of Pittsburgh is the second most populated city in Pennsylvania and has a new and improved procurement website that can provide your business with opportunities, email notifications about opportunities and award results. The site also offers electronic submission of bids/proposals and much more. When you’re ready to start doing business with Pittsburgh you first must complete the vendor registration process. The city provides detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to register as a vendor. It’s also important to understand the various procurement methods and solicitation types that Pittsburgh issues, so you know which conditions apply to the opportunities you want to bid on. These methods and solicitation types include:
- Request for Proposal – for professional services when cost is not the only thing factored into the award. Additional criteria other than the lowest cost bidder determines the winning bid
- Request for Quote – for one-time purchases of professional services or commodities under $30,000. At least 3 quotes must be obtained
- Invitation for Bid – for commodities and non-professional services including purchases that occur multiple times a year. Typically awarded to the lowest cost bidder
- Pre-Qualified – projects the procurement team bids out when a need arises. All vendors on this PQ list are solicited when a need arises.
- Purchasing Cards – used for single purchases under $3,000
(Source: Performance Audit - Office of Management and Budget Bureau of Procurement. Lamb, Michael E. “PDF.” Pittsburgh, 6 May. 19.)
For purchases and contracts below $11,300, no formal bidding is required. For purchases and contracts between $11,300 and $21,000 three quotes must be obtained, and for purchases over $21,000 formal bidding is required.
If your business is a Minority & Women-Owned Business (MWBE), you can become certified through the URA Minority & Women-Owned Business Enterprise program.
Lastly, once your business is ready to start bidding on opportunities you can visit the City of Pittsburgh’s Bid Opportunities page to view and search open bids that relate to your business’s area of expertise.
Bidding in the City of Harrisburg
If you’re looking to do business with the City of Harrisburg, the Office of Procurement can help you get started. The first step is to fill out their vendor registration form located on the homepage of their site. The next step is to review the purchasing guidelines to find out how the city makes its purchases and what would apply to the opportunities that your business is bidding on. The purchasing guidelines include:
- $3,500 and under – purchase orders are not required, and purchases may be authorized by the Department Bureau Director
- $3,500 - $20,999 – requires a purchase order in advance. At least 1 quote must be obtained
- $21,000 and above – a purchase order is required, and purchases are made with formal solicitations. At least 3 quotes must be obtained
(Source: “Office of Purchasing.” City of Harrisburg. 11 May. 20. http://harrisburgpa.gov/purchasing/)
If your business is looking to become certified as a minority/women/disadvantaged business, visit the City of Harrisburg’s MBE/WBE/DBE page to find out how to get certified, what qualifications are needed, and how the city can help increase your participation on city-related projects.
Lastly, when your business is ready to bid on opportunities you can view all kinds of bids on their New Opportunities and Solicitation List page.
A Bidding Intelligence Service for Your Business
When searching for bid opportunities it can often be challenging to find everything that may be relevant to your business. By using a bid intelligence service, that work can be done for you. As a BidNet member you will receive targeted bid opportunities that specifically match your business’s area of expertise. With our daily BidAlert® Bulletin, you will automatically be notified when a new bid opportunity is released. Instead of spending hours searching for opportunities, you can receive bids from state, local and federal agencies from all over the United States straight to your email inbox.
Andrea Cortina | BidNet.com