For minority business owners who want to become suppliers to local government entities or to bid on other contracts, the process can be daunting.
But an annual event sets out to help minority business owners understand the process of bidding for procurement opportunities with entities like the city of Detroit.
Called the Minority Business Summit, the event this year was hosted by Detroit’s Office of Contracting & Procurement on Thursday at Wayne County Community College District’s Curtis L. Ivery Downtown Campus. There were 63 attendees in person and 47 people viewed presentations virtually.
“It’s important for us to do this as an annual event because we want to make sure that we’re being inclusive to have Detroiters and minorities that are a part of the opportunities that the city of Detroit has,” said Toni Stewart-Limmitt, deputy chief procurement officer for the city of Detroit. “Typically, in the past, they haven’t had an opportunity to bid on any of our contracts and they felt pushed out. This is just one aspect and one way that we can be more inclusive.”
The summit covered such topics as the bidding process, getting a business certified, submitting invoices to the city, registering to work with the city and state, and gaining access to training and information.
Here are five things to know that can help a minority business owner take part in procurement opportunities in the region:
Table of Contents
Getting certifications for your business
Certifications can help businesses be more competitive when seeking bids, and some certifications offer equalization credits to help boost the chances of Detroit-based businesses winning bids.
The Detroit Business Opportunity Program helps entrepreneurs to get certifications that help with equalization credits during the procurement process. The program is under the city’s Civil Rights Inclusion & Opportunity department, and Tenika Griggs serves as the director. Each certification lasts for a year.
There are 10 certification types: Detroit-based businesses, Detroit-headquartered businesses, Detroit resident businesses, Detroit small businesses, Detroit-based micro-businesses, Detroit startups, minority-owned business enterprises, female-owned business enterprises, mentor venture and joint venture.
There are no equalization credits if one is certified as a minority- or female-owned business, however, if a company is seeking one of these types of businesses, the office can direct them to entrepreneurs who are being sought. The application process involves processing — which can take up to 45 days — a site visit, a certification fee payment and a certification letter.
Registering to do business with the city of Detroit
Business owners who want to participate in the procurement process should first register at detroitmi.gov/supplier. Once registered, they should then review the open bids. Next, apply for bids that one qualifies for, with the goal to be the lowest recommended bidder or the highest ranked in the system, according to Stewart-Limmitt during presentation during the summit.
Lastly, she said, contracts over $25,000 are then sent to be approved by city council and signed by the Office of Contracting & Procurement.
A business also is required to have insurance to work with the city, and sometimes a bid bond, depending on the project, said Stewart-Limmitt. Bid bonds are in place to ensure that contractors are able to fulfill their contract obligations, and are often used in construction projects.
The city currently has a lot of bids available for grounds services, security, janitorial, demolition, IT, renovations and construction.
Using Apex Accelerator to find other government contracts
The Wayne State University Apex Accelerator is a free business consulting service that helps entrepreneurs find government contracts. It offers training and outreach to help small businesses grow nationally, and it has an office in Detroit that serves Wayne, Monroe, Washtenaw, Livingston and Oakland counties. The training sessions focus on systems for award management, small business programs, finding opportunities, proposal writing and bidding and marketing to the government.
Michael Kelly, the associate director of Wayne State University’s Executive and Professional Development department, said in order to become a seller to the government, businesses need to be in operation for at least two years. They should also be able to show financial stability and extensive sales.
In addition, the following registrations can help you to become eligible to work with the government:
- System for Award Management — to be eligible for federal contracts.
- Vendor Self Service SIGMA — to be eligible for state contracts.
- Oracle — to be eligible for city contracts.
Kelly also advises to find the NAICS code for your business, which classifies products and services, and determines the size of a business. NAICS codes (NAICS stands for North American Industry Classification System) are required to sign up for the System for Award Management.
Opportunities with Wayne County
In order to find procurement opportunities with Wayne County, there are a few qualifications and requirements. Arthur Walker, procurement director at Wayne County, said business owners that want to work with the county need to have general liability insurance and a fair employment practices certificate.
There are also requirements that change based on what each project entails. Businesses should register with MITN to participate at legacy.mitn.info, which stands for Michigan Inter-governmental Trade Network.
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Opportunities with Oakland County
Joan Daniels, a buyer who works for Oakland County and handles bids, advised participants to call her to ask questions and get information because the team wants to get to know its contractors. Businesses do not have to be based in Oakland County to win bids, and its offices are located in Waterford and Pontiac.
To find information to connect with buyers in Oakland County, go to oakgov.com.