There is no doubt that the recent actions of President Donald Trump have been made with his signature phrase in mind: Make America Great Again. Since the turn of the calendar, the president has tried to provide the American economy with a shot in the arm by levying tariffs on imported solar panels, aluminum, and steel to remove the competitive pricing advantage of international manufacturers. If you’re a federal contractor, it’s important to keep a close eye on these changes.
Even more recently, President Trump laid out an infrastructure plan that he has been touting since he was a candidate on the campaign trail, and federal contractors are ecstatic. The latest infrastructure announcement comes with an even larger price-tag than it previously boasted and has additional detail about how the funds will be distributed. The details of his $1.5 trillion plan are important for any contractor who is looking to do his or her part in improving the country’s infrastructure.
With changes coming to the federal permitting process, as well as to the way money will be passed down from the federal government to state and local municipalities, there a few things each contractor should know before he or she submits a bid to fix our nation’s crumbling highways, bridges, railroads, airports, seaports, and water systems.
1. Be ready for your bid to face an entirely new level of scrutiny
When the government allots money to a project, it will require a full understanding of the scope of the proposed process, how the company intends to complete it, and to know if there is anything that may be a potential public relations issue. More so than a private client, the government seeks to avoid projects labeled as wasteful spending (remember shrimp on a treadmill?). Be sure that your bid not only accounts for every cent spent but is clear in detailing the process of how you will complete the project.
Safety measures will be heavily scrutinized. The government wants to know, in the unfortunate event of an accident, that your team will react and respond in a timely and appropriate manner. Be ready to provide written protocols, safety handbooks, and certificates of completion for safety training that you and your staff have completed. Licenses to operate certain machinery and insurance documents will help to put Uncle Sam at ease, knowing he is putting government money in safe hands.
2. Be prepared to mobilize in a moment’s notice
If you’ve spent much time involved with the government, you are familiar with the phrase “hurry up and wait.” This definitely holds true when it comes to landing federal contracts.
After the rush to submit a bid for a government project, a contractor might have to wait for quite some time before learning if he or she wins the bid. The government review process is intense, thorough, and can take a while, since they will undoubtedly have a lot of bids to sift through. Meanwhile, the team that you have assembled for the job might get antsy with anticipation to know if they should wait for this job or take a different gig.
The decision may take longer than anticipated, which could throw off the timetables in the proposal, but when a company is finally awarded the contract, the expectation set forth by the contractor is what the government will demand. So, have the proper insurance coverages in place before you submit the bid.
For example, if in the bid, you proposed a 9-month timeline based on breaking ground in the summer time, but the bid isn’t awarded until the fall, making it slightly more difficult to get started, you could still be held to the 9-month standard. Likewise, if you’re awarded the bid but a subcontractor flew the coop for another gig and you’re still trying to find a replacement that is up to your standard, you’ll have to do your best to hit the ground running without altering the deadlines that you promised.
3. Align with a partner who knows the federal system
The previous two pieces of advice (scrutiny and move fast) are just the tip of the iceberg. Most contractors who work on federal projects get most of their business from Uncle Sam. They have decades of experience completing government-funded projects and have become extremely efficient and precise with their bids, tailoring it to what their experience says will improve their chances at winning the contract.
But, even if you don’t have that experience, there is still a way to put yourself on the same playing field as the veterans: place your insurance coverage with a carrier that specializes in that space. The contractors who work federal jobs likely have insurance policies that were crafted to fit their specific needs and governments requirements. Insurance carriers and the agents who provide the policies also carry knowledge about the federal system, which has come from decades of partnering with the construction companies.
If you are attempting to land your first federal contract, seeking the partnership of an experienced professional might boost your chances in landing the project. The insurance carrier or agent can advise the contractor on the most efficient way to handle the necessary insurance paperwork. They can help package the insurance information in a way that has proven to be received with positive results. And, they will likely have coverages and additional services that will add value to your operation, putting your bid on par with, or even ahead of, competing bids.
If the president’s infrastructure plan comes to fruition, this will be the largest plan of its kind in our nation’s history. The number of projects will spike, creating plenty of jobs for construction contractors. If you want to be a part of giving the country’s infrastructure a much-needed facelift, it would behoove you to align yourself with a partner who can help put you in position. Be ready to be under the microscope, prepare to mobilize in a flash, and before that, find an insurance partner who might help you land your first government contracts.
About the author:
Jake Morin is the construction niche president at ProSight Specialty Insurance. For more information about insurance needs for government contracts, visit www.prosightspecialty.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, May 2018
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