How to Win Business From the State
How to Win Business From the State
When it comes to state projects, it seems as though any and all AEC firms are all looking to get a piece of the pie. But getting that piece of the pie can seem daunting if you are new to Georgia’s procurement process or just new to the public sector.
Marvin Woodward serves as the Deputy Executive Director of Construction of the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission (GSFIC). GSFIC is an agency that has been serving other state agencies and their capital outlay projects needs since 1972, handling hundreds of projects between their finance and construction divisions.
The Finance Division sells general obligation bonds along with the investment and accounting of all proceeds derived from the issuance of general obligation bonds or other amounts appropriated by the Legislature to GSFIC for capital outlay purposes. These are crucial funds for the State as they fund design and construction projects for all state agencies. Each year, the Finance Division sells roughly $1B in general obligation bonds, keeping Georgia’s public sector design and construction markets stable and healthy with a variety of projects.
The Construction Division has a very different job. The Construction Division is the watchdog for the State’s investment. They oversee procurement, handle contract negotiation, perform design review on project plans, monitor the progress of the projects out in the field, and provide accounting services associated with disbursements of payments to selected AEC partners.
Today, there are currently around 145 active projects on GSFIC’s list in various stages of design, planning, programming, construction, and closeout. When we talk about the ‘agencies’ Woodward does business with, most of the work is focused on higher ed—his largest clients being the Georgia Board of Regents and the Technical College System of Georgia. But, GSFIC also works with: the Department of Transportation; Soil and Water Conservation Districts; Department of Juvenile Justice; Department of Human Services; Department of Driver Services; and State Board of Education and many more.
Building a Relationship with the GSFIC
If an AEC firm feels that they are capable of designing or constructing a project for GSFIC, there are no minimum requirements. Woodward and his Procurement Director are both very open to meeting new firms that are looking to take on state projects and helping to educate the industry on how to win and perform work with the agency.
Woodward and his team want to have relationships in the industry, not just one-off introductory meetings. Many of the GSFIC staff are actively involved in organizations such as COAA, GASFA, and CMAA so they can remain engaged with the broader industry. It is also extremely helpful to Woodward and his team when AEC firms follow up to discuss changes within their business, new hires, new leadership, new technology, new services, and even what they are struggling with because it gives GSFIC a better grasp on what projects might be a good fit. Sometimes there might be a $4M project that is more appropriate for a smaller firm than a company that typically does $100M in business. But if the larger firm meets with Marvin or his team and says they want to try a small project first, then they will know why the big firm is chasing small projects, projects that are easily seen to be a mismatch without the broader understanding. Bottom line, Woodward and his team are accessible and approachable, just be mindful that they do have day jobs and project commitments, but they do want to be good partners.
The Selection Process
The State uses a formal two-step qualifications-based selection process which is generally overseen by a five-person panel that is dedicated to selecting design and construction professionals for the project. Curious who makes up this Selection Committee? One of GSFIC’s twenty-five project managers will always represent GSFIC, but after that, it could be the CCS (Contract Compliance Specialist), their Regional CCS or other personnel depending on the current workload and who is available. The remaining slots are filled by two members from the using agency and one member from the campus itself, with the exception of the Technical College System of Georgia which has an extra vote that goes to the campus—Woodward is rarely on the panel himself.
When your firm pursues work through GSFIC, it is important to consider factors like your project capacity, proximity, reputation, and experience with similar types of work. Although Woodward’s team does not consider them hard-set rules during the selection process, they do play an important role in consideration because finding the right match is critical. GSFIC wants the best outcome for everyone involved, and there is no obligation to spread the work for the sake of handing out opportunities. This is a selection process, not a lottery, so any firm has a chance.
The Selection Committee is interested in your firm’s history and experience during the first phase of selection, the Qualifications phase. Once you are shortlisted, the Committee knows your resume and capabilities and now wants to see how you will apply that experience and knowledge to the specific project. Woodward warns that a lot of AEC firms make the mistake of focusing on their portfolio instead of telling the panel how they will perform the project at hand during their interview. Technology provides a great way to visualize these plans, but the project team is the most critical consideration because people work with who they like and who is most qualified.
Building Out the Project Team
During the interviews, CEOs should only be there to show their support of the project, but the bulk of the conversation needs to be with the people that are going to be present on the job site and heavily involved on a regular basis. A strong team is GSFIC’s main priority, and there are a number of resume variations that can achieve it such as a superintendent who hasn’t worked with GSFIC and a project manager who has—as long as balance and synergy exist Woodward can work with it. The mechanical engineer is also an important team member to have in design interviews because there have been a lot more issues on the mechanical side than any of the other components in recent years.
If your firm is interested in pursuing projects through GSFIC, you should familiarize yourself with the Georgia Procurement Registry and start making touchpoints to get some face time. Finally, if you win a project, Woodward’s last words of advice are to finish strong because it leaves a lasting impression. The State’s closeout process includes three phases: Project Completion, Material Completion, and Substantial Completion – all of which are important to leaving a positive lasting impression and building your brand equity with the State.
For more on how to win work with the state, listen to our podcast episode, Winning AEC Projects From the State, with Marvin Woodward