Guest Column

Get your slice of the state contract pie

February 23, 2018
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Every year, the state of Michigan invites businesses to bid on $53 billion in contracts for construction projects, goods or services.

And every year, only a small slice of the pie goes to women- or minority-owned businesses.

This wasn’t helped in 2006 when Michigan voters adopted Proposal 2, which precluded state agencies from granting preferential treatment to specific groups when it came to public contracts. Today, only the Michigan Department of Transportation has a specific amount of funds to award to “disadvantaged business enterprises,” which are better known as women- and minority-owned businesses.

Bidding on a state contract is not an impossible task, though. Women- and minority-owned businesses can follow these seven basic steps and try to snag a slice of the state contract pie:

  • Register as a vendor: Familiarize yourself with the state’s new online procurement system, which is called SIGMA Vendor Self Service, or SIGMA.

  • Determine your category: Each product or service will fall into a particular category. Know yours.

  • Develop a relationship with the agency: Relationships are important and may offer critical support when working to understand the procurement process and how to distinguish your product or service from others.

  • Do your research and be intentional: Figure out what your ability is to make a profit after getting the contract versus how much time, energy and cost you’ll put into the solicitation. Make sure to note requirements and timelines.

  • Develop and submit your bid: Follow instructions, check for errors and make sure to submit by the deadline — there’s something to be said for doing it right the first time.

  • Follow up: Whether you win or not, following up with the agency buyer will allow you to gain useful information for future opportunities.

  • If rejected, file a protest: Do research and keep appropriate documents on hand should you need to file a protest.
     

Bidding on a state contract takes time and money for research and requires much preparation and a willingness to invest in cultivating relationships; however, the award likely will outweigh any time or money compromises if you do your due diligence.

For more information on how to bid on a state contract as a woman- or minority-owned business, visit michigan.gov/mdot.

Monique C. Field-Foster is senior counsel with Warner Norcross and Judd, where she concentrates her practice on all forms of government affairs, including state procurement. She can be reached at mfield-foster@wnj.com.

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