More access for Latino businesses promises Procurement Commissioner Trevor Day
How the department assists minority businesses stay on equal footing when bidding for contracts.
Have you ever taken a drive into the city via I-95 and just when you are getting close to your exit you run into a construction zone? How about a gas line being installed in a cluster of new townhomes? You even notice a new building to be used for a summer after school program? All these things have one thing in common. The bidding for these contracts and countless others all go through the Procurement Department of the City of Philadelphia.
The Procurement Department, located at the Municipal Services building in Center City, is the central purchasing and materials management for the City of Philadelphia. They acquire supplies, equipment, amongst other things, that meets the needs of the department while making the process both fair and open. Since the inception of the department in 1951, the guidelines for making a bid on a contract have not changed. The business offering the lowest cost is usually awarded the contract. Trevor Day believes with the advancement of technology over numerous decades, getting a contract should be simpler and mainstreamed.
The importance of this office is key. Last year, its Services and Equipment Division issued 259 bids that resulted in 306 contracts signed for more than $ 95 million. The Public Works Department, for its part, opened 152 bids from which were awarded 103 contracts worth $ 364 million as referred to by documentation from the City of Philadelphia’s Procurement Department.
Only three Hispanic companies contacted his department last year to seek business opportunities with the city. In other words, the participation of the Latino community in contracting services is practically non-existent.
However, as he himself acknowledges, only three Hispanic companies contacted his department last year to seek business opportunities with the city. In other words, the participation of the Latino community in contracting services is practically non-existent.
Trevor started his career with the city as an IT Manager and Lead Budget analyst back in 2000. Over the years he rose up in the ranks to be the Deputy Procurement Commissioner from 2013-2015 to now serving as the current Procurement Commissioner. He provides leadership, sets up strategic plans, as well as supply the contracting management needs of the 55 departments, agencies, and commissions that the department serves.
Commissioner Day came to AL DÍA News as part of our dialogue series to discuss a number of issues that range from ways the department wants to keep the citizen’s trust by upholding a competitive bidding system for contractors as well as what opportunities are available for local and minority owned businesses.
The following is a dialogue between Procurement Commissioner Trevor Day and AL DIA News
How does procurement benefit the development of the city and how does the department directly affect the citizens of Philadelphia?
The mission of the Procurement Department is to leverage the citizen’s money for good use and for the best value of contracts and awarding those contracts so that the departments can achieve the services they are providing to every individual and business that is a part of the City of Philadelphia. We work collaboratively with 55-60 agencies within the city.
For Latino contractors and businesses, what is your department doing to assist the community?
I think there is much confusion around contracting whether it’s an immigrant community or a non-immigrant community. We are not an easy entity to understand. We are working to simplify the process, create one place where people can look for all contract opportunities. Currently there are two to three different locations that you can go and find different contract opportunities by the City of Philadelphia. We have a project right now called “Contracts Hub” It’s really combining all the publically advertised contracts available in one location. You as a business owner don’t need to go this website and that website when you can go to one single place. The other thing is that we are focused on training and marketing. So we have done over 20-25 outreach events hosted by other groups such as the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
What projects is the Procurement department working on?
One of the projects we have been working on is the E-Procurement system called “PHL Contracts” This is a contract log posted on the website that will give you all the contracts in place for the city. There is also a separate component of that which is expiring contracts. This will tell you a contract is ready to expire in 4-5 months or a year from now. It tells a business owner that the City of Philadelphia is likely to put out an opportunity three to six months before a contract expires. If there is a contract there with a description, quantity of the dollar value of the contract, and an expiration date and if I’m interested in it, I’m going to come back and check. We also have a customer service center that talks with businesses all the time. I would refer people to PHL Contracts as the first place to go.
Contracts are awarded to businesses that are the lowest bidder who can do the work. This has not changed since Procurement started in 1951?? How will “Best Value” help the department?
I am in favor of this change. I’ve been involved with this since the beginning. The charter has not been touched since 1951. I think things were simpler back then and we anticipate using the “Best Value” on our most complex projects. The industry has changed. In 1951, you didn't necessarily have computer information systems the way we do today. You didn’t have construction that uses information technology the way we to today. There are many components such as safety that we should be looking at. Whether a business is located in Philadelphia, whether they are a minority or woman owned business. All those things need to be taken into account when using the “Best Value” process.
Give an example on how the “Best Value” method would be used?
First would be in technology. It can be anything from a system where you are buying software and equipment. You want to look at the project team, look at their history on projects, and look at their ability to complete a project on time. You also want to look at their capacity in the terms of whether they used minority or women subcontractors and whether they are a woman or minority owned company. Price is still a component. It also gives the city and the vendor the ability to negotiate.
The other area is construction. We have complex construction projects. When we are evaluating them, we want to look at the safety component of the company, their project team, which is their “A” Team. Again, price may be a component, but it is also if they are going to employ local Philadelphians, women, and minorities. What is the workforce component to that contract? We’ve been doing construction projects as “low bid” and we have been doing it successfully. We may have 2 companies come in that are equal. One is more willing to hire 30-40 percent Philadelphians and one that is going to hire 20 percent. I think we are going to give the one that’s going to hire more Philadelphians a preference.
What kind of training and marketing are you doing at the Procurement Department?
Since September of last year, we went live with our vendor registration model. It was to get vendors to register within the system. On a biweekly basis, we have vendor registration training in our offices. We are also working on video tutorials so you don’t have to come to our offices to get trained and registered. People like the one on one and hands on assistance. We’ve also done a lot of internal training within the city. We’ve taken a phased approach that there is a component of this E-Procurement system that is internal to the city. All these efficiencies will make the process quicker and get the contracts through the process quicker.
Throughout your time in Procurement what are your hopes and end goals for the department?
I want to see the city of Philadelphia as a model government agency in contracting. What does that mean? It means that there is more transparency about our contracts. That it is simple and easy to understand, that we (procurement) do a good job in sourcing our contracts across all different ethnicities across local, state and also nationally. At times we have contracts that we don’t have distributors or manufacturers that are located in Philadelphia of the commonwealth. We want to attract those businesses to bid on city jobs. It’s a continuous cycle of looking at the goals of the administration and making those contracts available and working in the best interest of the city.
Contracts with the Procurement Department of Philadelphia
The PHLContracts Vendor Portal allows sellers (vendors) of goods and services to:
- Register with the City of Philadelphia by completing an online application and Consent and Authorization Agreement
- Maintain their organization information
- Maintain information on products and services they offer
- Maintain information on certifications and categories they belong to
- View bid opportunities and respond (with Quotes) electronically online
- View active contracts and search contracts and bids
- View purchase orders (contracts) sent to them
- Receive procurement news and information directly from the City.
All prospective bidders are requested to complete and submit a “Questionnaire and Financial statement for Qualifying Bidders” on each Public Works Bid. The completed questionnaires are due on the date specified in the bid, which is usually 14 days before the bid opening.
Examples of Concession opportunities issued by the City of Philadelphia include, but are not limited to:
- Food Concessions at various Fairmount Park locations
- Bicycle Rentals
- Bus Shelter Advertising
- Vending machines at city facilities
If you are a concessionaire interested in doing business with the city, register with the procurement Department. Registered vendors will receive notifications of new Concession opportunities when they are issued.
Procurement Customer Service keeps the Vendor Registration and bid Announcement lists, which are how the city contacts vendors who are interested in doing business with the city of Philadelphia. They also maintain a list of Local Business Entities (LBE’s). A certified LBE can qualify to receive a bid preference on applicable bids as long as they meet with the regulations.
The procurement department’s special services unit provides various functions to other city agencies. Those functions are:
- Asset inventory management of the city
- Surplus disposal
- Inspection of commodities purchased under city contracts
- Inspecting and confirming local business entities
- Advertisement of different city functions such as procurement bids and different political announcements tied to national, state, and local political cycles
For Procurement opportunities and Information about competitive, sealed bids for supplies, equipment, maintenance, repair services, visit http://www.phila.gov/procurement/aboutus/Pages
Information about contract opportunities with the City of Philadelphia can be found at www.phila.gov/contracts