by Yolanda Cowart | March 9, 2021
Government contracting is often a maze of acronyms complicated by the various agencies offering contract opportunities. After working with hundreds of small businesses in the public sector that include information technology, manufacturing and construction industries – it’s clear that the process can be confusing for even the most seasoned entrepreneur.
In Pinellas County, Penny for Pinellas projects are underway. The projects are funded by revenue from the extension of a voter-approved one percent sales tax.
For example, Penny for Pinellas funds can be used in land acquisition or for capital projects associated with the development, construction or rehabilitation of housing units in Pinellas County.
What many businesses don’t realize is that programs such as this could bring many opportunities for prime contracts and subcontracts. But there is a process business owners must go through to best position themselves for success within these types of programs. Below are three steps interested businesses should do.
Step #1: Register as a vendor with Pinellas County.
Pinellas County uses a system called ePro for contractor and vendor registration, as well as bidding, quoting and request for proposal notifications. Vendors can register for free to receive notifications, download solicitations, and submit proposals electronically. Again, all of this is at no cost to businesses. Notifications are based on the commodity codes selected in the vendor profile, so be sure to identify all of the relevant commodity codes that your business excels in.
Remember that this is a self-maintained system, so if updates are needed to the company profile, your business representative is responsible for entering those updates into the system. Keep your profile up to date! While price is a consideration for contracts, so is responsiveness, quality, service, timeliness, past performance and stability.
To certify with the SBE program, businesses must meet the following requirements:
- Must have been in business for at least six months
- Business must be located in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco or Manatee counties and maintain a current occupational license/tax receipt from at least one of Pinellas county’s 24 municipalities, Hillsborough, Pasco or Manatee counties
- Must serve a commercially useful function
- Number of employees averaged over the previous three years must not exceed 50 full-time employees
- Annual sales or gross revenues not to exceed $8M for construction service providers
- Participation in business development education and consultation to include relevant workshops
It is not unusual for prime contractors to seek out subcontractors utilizing this SBE list, or for them to encourage their existing subcontractors to register with Pinellas County’s SBE program to avail themselves of additional opportunities.
Step #3: Prequalification for Construction Projects with Pinellas County
The county recently moved to a two-step prequalification process. Effective January 2021, Pinellas County suspended the prequalification process, allowing contractors to participate in a two-step bid process as part of a one-year pilot program.
If you are a new contractor, not currently prequalified by the county or Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), you must submit prequalification requirements for each new construction bid opportunity for which you are interested in. This is step one in the process. If you are determined prequalified, you will naturally move to step two in the bid process.
If you are currently a prequalified contractor with the county, you will maintain your prequalification status at least through 2021. As a reminder, the county does recognize prequalification from FDOT.
Once you’ve got the three steps above covered, it’s important that you work to build your relationships with other contractors, especially if you are seeking subcontracts. The Florida SBDC at Pinellas County hosts quarterly events, such as Contractors and Coffee, which gives you the ability to meet face-to-face with Pinellas County project managers and prime contractors. Take advantage of networking opportunities like these.
The Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at Pinellas County Economic Development also provides government contracting services and host an Annual Reverse Tradeshow and Match Maker event that educates business owners on up-and-coming contracts and bid opportunities.
When in doubt, reach out to the no-cost resources around you when navigating Penny for Pinellas opportunities. There are multiple staff at both the county office and the local SBDC available to answer any questions you have.