They came for many reasons, but ultimately, the same reasons.
“I’ve never seen it [the economy] like this,” said Diane Nichols of R & D Construction Inc. of Barrington, R.I., who runs a two-person company with her husband, Robert. “It’s very slow, although I think it’s going to pick up. I came here to drum up work, hopefully, to get things back rolling.”
“I’m just trying to get a hold of RIDOT jobs,” added Tom Adams of East Coast Construction of Portsmouth, R.I. “Jobs are pretty scarce right now. This information they are giving is valuable to bid on work. It’s tough to compete with the unions. If we can get some RIDOT jobs, it’s good for our business.”
Rick Tinley of ProCut, with offices in Boston and Cranston, R.I., was there to network with other companies.
“I see other guys here — Aetna Bridge, East Coast Construction, Lynch Construction, etc., and I’m asking if they need any cutting of asphalt. I wanted to see for myself,” said Tinley. “And trying to find out about the RIDOT program for the stimulus package [money].”
“I came to see how the state is going to develop these jobs,” added Victoria Dworkin of Canal Electric of Johnston, R.I. “I came because I saw an opportunity.”
That opportunity was The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) panel of experts who came to the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Crossings in Warwick in April to share state and RIDOT bidding procedures.
RIDOT hosted a free Contract Opportunities Fair, prompted by the receipt of more than $137 million in federal stimulus funds.
The fair provided an opportunity for new and existing contractors to become familiar with the transportation contracts available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
The program highlighted upcoming bid opportunities, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) requirements and opportunities, and how to do business with RIDOT and the state. Approximately 100 contractors attended.
“In these times, we want to show a way to get the construction industry involved,” Michael P. Lewis, director of RIDOT, told the group. “There is both public and private suffering and this is an opportunity for RIDOT to reach out to you and for you to reach out with one another.”
Lewis said this difficult economy wasn’t a local or regional, or even a national phenomenon, but a problem “around the world,” and to address it, the federal government had stepped forward to “create jobs and improve infrastructure” at the same time.
With dozens of ARRA-funded projects coming up for bid, Lewis told the assembled group, “This is an opportunity for us to talk to you and for you to talk to one another.”
Lewis said there was “an enormous backlog of work here in Rhode Island,” and to assess infrastructure and to prioritize each project’s value and importance, Gov. Don Carcieri had assembled a Blue Ribbon Transportation Panel last year. His mood was optimistic.
“Rhode Island spends $300 million on infrastructure per year and road and bridge infrastructure repairs would require another $300 million per year,” said Lewis. “There will be a backlog of work for years to come. As long as financing becomes available, it bodes well for the future.”
Lewis pointed to the $137 million in ARRA funds available to RIDOT, which will be spent by July. He said there were 50 individual shovel-ready projects across the state of every conceivable type, ready to be funded — highway repair, paving, electrical work, bridge work, drainage work, signage, building, demolition and more.
“Our principle goal is to get as many people back to work as soon as possible,” added Lewis, while “improving our infrastructure.”
Of the 50 projects at issue, he said, 20 have been bid and eight contracts have been awarded.
“This is a way to say to the U.S. Congress, we can do it and do it efficiently,” added Lewis. “This work will create 1,500 direct jobs and 3,500 indirect jobs and this is a way to get increased funds in the future.”
Negotiating the Web Site
Louis DeQuattro Jr., associate director, Division of Purchases, Rhode Island Department of Administration, directed contractors through RIDOT’s Web site, via a Power Point presentation.
DeQuattro reminded contractors they have to negotiate the Web to correctly and efficiently enter the bidding process.
“The Web site has everything you need to know in order to do business with the state,” said DeQuattro. “Study it and learn how to use it.”
He reminded Rhode Island prime and sub contractors that they needed to be registered in order to bid on RIDOT jobs through the Web site.
Christos Xenophontos, administrator, Contracts & Specifications, RIDOT, told the group, “All bids and grant opportunities are advertised online at Purchasing on the site,” including all R.I. Vendor information.
Xenophontos directed local contractors (and those from surrounding states who could not attend) to the Web address: www.purchasing.ri.gov for all biding and vending information.
He told contractors that bid offers would be accepted through a new CD-ROM program that was provided by RIDOT for free.
Contractors would have to provide pertinent professional information like the list of the past 10 jobs they completed, all licenses, their recent three-year history, bonding information and more.
“We have been working with Connecticut DOT and MassHighway to expedite certification,” added Vanessa Crum, administrator, Business & Community Resources, RIDOT. “We are streamlining the certification process. If you are certified to work in another state, we are trying to make it easier to work state to state.”
Contractors left the hotel much more hopeful than when they arrived.
“Maybe I can get excited again for work,” one of them said, as he left.
“This is a very exciting year for us,” added Kazen Farhoumand, RIDOT’s chief engineer, while reviewing the dozens of jobs coming up to bid. “But we still have a lot more to go.”
For more information, visit www.purchasing.ri.gov.