Arizona vendor expos bolster competition

Public agencies seek diverse contractor base

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Infrastructure has become something of a watchword in Arizona and across the country as officials seek funding to upgrade roads, bridges, water treatment plants and other needed public facilities.

But even after the money for projects is secured, another challenge remains  — finding the contractors and vendors necessary to complete public projects; this effort is called procurement.

In the West Valley, municipal officials know this challenge all too well, where the search for developers for some recently proposed projects were called off or delayed due to lack of interest and worker shortages.

City of Surprise officials  — who had issued a formal request for Statement of Qualifications in October 2019 to find a developer for a 17-acre multi-use project in the Original Town Site neighborhood  — canceled their solicitation when no one responded, according to a Jan. 30 release.

“Heritage District Redevelopment; SOQ Received log posted. No SOQs received, the solicitation has been canceled,” the email notice stated.

Back in 2018, the Bullard Avenue reconfiguration  — a partnership between the city and the Arizona Department of Transportation for a primarily federally funded $3.3 million project  — was delayed when contractors could not find enough workers.

The solicitation had to be rebid, leading to a $400,000 cost overrun.

In an effort to bolster the ranks of qualified vendors, municipal officials will soon team up to host an upcoming event in partnership with local industry association affiliates of NIGP, The Institute for Public Procurement.

The Grand Canyon Chapter of NIGP and Arizona State Capitol Chapter of NIGP will host the 9th Annual Reverse Trade Show 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, April 27 at Surprise Stadium, 15930 N. Bullard Ave., Surprise.

At the event, representatives from city, county and state agencies, as well as school districts, from around Arizona will be on hand to meet with vendors and discuss procurement processes and opportunities, according to Cheryl Bucalo, a spokeswoman for the AZ-NIGP

“This event is aimed at local businesses that want to begin working with their local government and/or school agencies but may not know how to get their foot in the door in order to do so. Or maybe they might already work with one agency but are looking to broaden their reach and begin supplying to others,” Ms. Bucalo stated. “It also gives us the opportunity to explain our procurement processes as well as dispel any misconceptions that potential vendors may have about doing business with the government.”

Cyndi Hawk, the group’s treasurer and a lead organizer for the event, stressed the value of the “reverse” format.

“I like to think of it as networking event with a twist. The unique format is so cool because our suppliers come to meet the buyers rather than your normal vendor expo. It’s an excellent opportunity for suppliers to build a new relationship with government agencies,” Ms. Hawk explained.

And while the event is not aimed at the general public, it can benefit taxpayers everywhere by broadening the vendor pool to increase competition and communication, Ms. Bucalo asserted.

“The real value to the community at large is not only the increased competition, which usually results in lower prices and higher quality for the community, but also a better understanding of the public procurement process as well as increased communication between the government buyers and the suppliers,” she stated.

Those who wish to register or learn more about this event can visit aznigp.org or email: cyndi.hawk@surpriseaz.gov.

ADOT efforts

State transportation officials oversee many of the largest, most expensive federally funded projects in Arizona. And when attempting to spend federal dollars, local officials often must meet stringent federal guidelines for selecting contractors.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which was established in 1982, aims to prevent discrimination and foster competition by empowering small and minority-run businesses, among others.

“The DBE program ensures that federally assisted contracts for highway, transit and aviation projects are made available for small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals,” the FHA’s website states.

In some cases, a predetermined percentage of the work must be completed by DBE-qualified contractors; and finding eligible vendors to compete for those projects can sometimes pose challenges and cause delays.

To help attract new DBE-eligible vendors to Arizona projects, ADOT will host the 2020 DBE & Small Business Transportation Expo 7 a.m.-noon Thursday, March 12 at the Glendale Civic Center, 5750 W. Glenn Drive, Glendale.

“ADOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program helps qualifying small businesses compete for federally assisted contracts. The companies must be owned by individuals from socially and economically disadvantaged groups, including women and minorities,” agency officials stated at their website, azdot.gov.

Partnering with ADOT at the event will be the Phoenix Public Transit and Street Transportation departments, Valley Metro, the Maricopa County Department of Transportation and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Despite its specific theme, the expo is open to all businesses seeking to work with public agencies, regardless of DBE status.

“Although the expo is geared toward Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and small businesses, it’s open to all businesses, public agencies, vendors and community partners with an interest in the transportation industry.”

Contractors and other vendors can learn more or register for the event at azdot.gov/dbe or by calling (602) 712-7761.

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