16 Nov Better Bids and Better Projects through Contractor Outreach
Consultants and contractors are stakeholders, too!
When considering stakeholder outreach approaches, consultants and contractors are rarely on the list – but comprehensive contractor and consultant outreach can set an infrastructure project up for success well before construction begins.
Engaging contractors and consultants early results in more informed firms; better proposal and bid solicitation processes that match firms with the right opportunities; achieves goals of reaching Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) and Small Businesses (SBs); and ultimately, a better project.
Agencies with projects receiving federal funding are required to conduct highly structured consultant and contractor outreach with significant reporting. Regardless of federal funding, a solid contractor outreach program should aim to create an open and inclusive process that encourages a robust, diverse, and qualified pool of consultants and contractors to propose and bid on projects.
As with any stakeholder outreach, strategic planning and clear objectives must be part of the equation, leading to identification of targeted consultant and contractor tactics such as:
- Focus groups and interviews help identify and ultimately address consultant and contractor perceptions – or misperceptions – of business opportunities, the agency, and barriers to submitting bids and proposals.
- Open house events allow contractors to meet in person with team members, learn about the process and upcoming opportunities, and collaborate with other consultants and contractors. Meeting in person with potential submitters builds rapport and assists with team building between prime contractors and subcontractors.
- Workshops delve into specific topics, including navigating the vendor portal, labor compliance, bonding, prequalification, and other topics that may serve as barriers to potential bidders and proposers. Workshops are particularly helpful for DBEs and SBs seeking guidance and education about technical opportunities.
- Targeted promotions of business opportunities is important in reaching contractors and consultants with the appropriate skills sets and qualifications for each job, and demonstrating Good Faith Efforts for federally-funded projects. Promotions can range from utilizing a vendor portal (such as PlanetBids) to reach specific trades and contractors, to placing paid advertising in trade publications, or contacting qualified firms by phone. NAICS codes can help inform which trades should be notified for a given job and can help in identifying firms in a given trade.
- Maintaining comprehensive records and tracking outreach supports documentation of efforts to achieve agency contractor outreach goals and ensure Good Faith Efforts are met. In addition, tracking outreach supports follow-through from early contractor outreach to successful bidding, and provides a foundation for future project consultant and contractor outreach efforts.