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How To Prepare To Bid On Federal Construction Projects

December 17, 2021

Cecilia De La Rosa

Cecilia De La Rosa

With the recent passing of new federal infrastructure funding, lots of federal construction projects will be coming down the pipeline. It pays to be ready to bid on these projects when they come to your neighborhood. If you haven’t bid on federal projects before, you have to do some work ahead of time to get yourself ready to bid.

How to Register as a Contractor

The first step in preparing to bid on federal construction projects is registering as a contractor . You start that process by getting a DUNS number . A Data Universal Numbering System number is a unique nine-digit number for each physical location of your business, and it’s issued by Dun & Bradstreet. This number is used to track your success on contracts and your creditworthiness. Next, you must register your business with the federal System for Award Management database at SAM.gov. You have to register at this site in order to be awarded a government contract. You may even have contracts given to you simply by being listed, as federal agencies often use the database to find businesses when they need help.

In order to register at SAM.gov you will need to know your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code(s) . This code or codes describes the products and services that you furnish. You can also list your Standard Industrial Classification or SIC code  on your registration. Both of these codes help agencies find your business when they are looking for the services or products you supply. If you’d like to work with the General Services Administration you’ll need a past performance evaluation . You apply for the evaluation online. You must submit a list of references and will be subjected to an independent audit. The audit rates your past performance based on a statistical analysis of performance data and survey responses from your customers.

Where to Find Government Construction Projects

Federal contract opportunities can be found on the SAM.gov site under Contract OpportunitiesContract Opportunities . You can search by NAICS or SIC code or by location for projects that fit you. Subcontractors looking to bid to general contractors on federal projects can visit the Small Business Association’s (SBA) SubNet  site. On this site you can search for subcontracting opportunities by location.

How the Contract Bidding Process Works

Prime contractors and subcontractors can search SAM.gov and SubNet for contract opportunities that match their capabilities, and place bids on the contracts. Follow the instructions on the requests exactly and be sure to include all the information requested by the hiring agency. Calculate your bid price and include any costs you’ll incur to perform the work, as well as profit. Federal projects are subject to Davis-Bacon labor rates and laws, so be sure you are prepared to pay weekly payroll and file weekly reports.

How to Increase Your Chances of Winning a Contract:

1. Be prepared

Make sure you are fully prepared  to take on government work before you bid on a project. There are additional labor laws and rules, like Davis-Bacon, that you must follow when working with the federal government. Make sure you have enough labor, equipment, and capital to handle the added workload. Materials financing and equipment financing may be able to help if you need a short-term boost.

2. Follow the rules

Read each RFP closely and provide the information requested, and in the format required. The federal government is a stickler for following the rules, unlike other private bidding opportunities.

3. Determine whether you qualify for special labels or programs

Federal government agencies are required to award certain percentages of work to minority owned and disadvantaged businesses. If you qualify, it pays to go through the process of registering through one of these programs . There are seven groups that are considered minorities in the United States:
  • Hispanic or Latino Americans
  • Black or African Americans
  • Asian Americans
  • Arab and other Middle Eastern Americans
  • Native Americans and Alaskan Natives
  • Native Hawaiians
  • Other Pacific Islanders

Women are also considered a minority, but usually have separate certifications for their businesses.

3. Actively find opportunities

SAM may be where all contract opportunities are listed, but don’t forget to look elsewhere, like local sources. For example, your city could post a bid for design services for a new school building. Knowing about this early means you can prepare your bid for it ahead of time. Prepare for and register your company now so you can be ready to bid when the projects are released.  Some contractors only work on public works projects, so you know they can be profitable. The key is to be prepared and follow the RFP instructions correctly. Be the low bidder, and you’re on your way.

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