Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
In 2007, the City of Irving developed a Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Program to stimulate the growth of small M/WBE and hired Deborah McVean, who had worked with small business programs for over 15 years, as program administrator. McVean spoke about how women in business can engage with the City of Irving at the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber’s Women’s Alliance luncheon at La Cima Club Jan. 16.
Last year, the City of Irving accepted and approved bids worth about $40 million, according to McVane.
“Of that amount, about $20 million was spent with MWBE firms,” McVean said. “About $10 million of that amount went to women owned firms.
“We spend about $62 million a year on contracts, but some of those are in agreement with other local cities, and some are renewals,” she said. “Right now, 70 percent of our contracts are construction contracts, because we’re redoing the water/wastewater lines in the city, particularly on the south side, but that’s going to shift as we meet the end of that bond program.”
McVean said more vendors bidding means better prices for the City of Irving and that the City gets to keep taxes down if they are not spending as much on the contracts they award.
“Part of my job is to find, encourage and educate minority women in business,” McVean said. “I partner with over 27 community leaders in Irving and ethnic chambers of commerce across the Metroplex. I work with those ethnic chambers and the Irving Chamber, sending out email notices about our solicitations, so they can forward those to their members. I also go through two certification data bases: NCTRCA, the local certification firm, and the State of Texas HUB Certification.”
“It’s not necessary to be certified as a MWBE firm in order to do business with the city, but it helps,” McVean said. “Certification works two ways. One: it allows us to show the community that we are working with legitimate, qualified firms and that we’re giving equal opportunity to everyone. Two: it gives you the opportunity to work with a company on the subcontracting level.”
“Registration in our data base will give you the opportunity to be notified as soon as we put the solicitation up,” McVean said. “You will be notified by email. We don’t mail, we don’t do the post office, and we don’t give you a telephone call.”
The City purchases a wide variety of goods and services.
“It’s up to you to figure out if we purchase what you can provide,” McVean said. “Go to our website (www.ci.irving.tx.us/). Go to the business tab of the City’s webpage, click on Purchasing Solicitations, and you’ll see all of our previous and current contracts. We keep about six months of previous contracts up on our website. If you click on the name of the contract, you have the bid. You get to see all of the pertinent information about the scope of work and what it entails.
“If the bid number is underlined, it is an annual contract, and you get to see who bid the previous time and what they bid. So you have your competition’s information so that when you bid, you can bid more within line of what was previously bid and might have a good chance of winning that contract. We also put when it’s due, what day it is going to come in.”
Solicitations are on the City’s website for about three weeks.
“When we open the bid, they are always public, so you can come to our bid openings and see who bid on the contract,” McVean said. “We put that bid tabulation up on the website, and in the bottom column we tell who won the bid. We are very transparent when it comes to the purchasing department.”
The City chooses the apparent responsible low bidder.
“Just because you bid the lowest doesn’t mean you’re going to get the bid,” McVean said.
“If you’re going to bid on government contracts, there are resources like the SCORE Association (Counselors to America’s entrepreneurs and business owners) and SBDC (The North Texas Small Business Development Center) has a Center for Government Contracting, and they will teach you how to put a government bid together free of charge. There are resources to help you grow your business that are provided by the federal government – taxpayer dollars at work.
“When we open a formal bid, we usually do it in our conference room,” McVean said. “We will open it and read the names out. It it’s an architect or engineering contract, those are negotiated, so we will just read the name of the contractor. Otherwise, we give you the name of the contractor and what they bid.
“Bidding on a government contract is a numbers game. There will be some days, you get the contract, and some days you’ll wonder how the other company can do the job for what they bid. You want to look at the history, so you can bid successfully on future contracts.
“If there is a pre-bid, attend it. It’s a great networking opportunity. Being in business is about networking and about developing connections and relationships that will help your business grow and hopefully get your foot in the door for greater opportunities.”