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By Duane Craig
May 1, 2017
Government construction work is always at the mercy of budgets, politics, and the economy. While federal budget and infrastructure talks are a long way from making any big changes in federal contracting over the near term, states, counties, and municipalities continue offering a bounty of government work all the time. Like all construction sectors, government construction at all levels rides on waves of change.
Here are five trends that can help you increase your share of government work.
If you dive deeper into government data you’ll be rewarded, according to a report from Onvia. As government agencies, at the local, state, and federal levels seek to reduce waste and improve efficiencies, the contractors who understand where the waste is, and offer solutions, will have a leg up on the competition.
Get to know the historical spending patterns of government agencies, and compare those to upcoming budgets. The greater the negative difference between historical spending and new budgets, the greater the need for new ways of delivering services for less, and delivering projects for less; not because of cutting corners, but because of efficiencies introduced to all phases of construction. Highlighting those efficiencies before and during bid time can help explain why your bid might be lower than expected, and can highlight the value your bid brings to the project.
Leaking pipes, aging pipes, contaminated water, and continual cuts in federal support to governments that maintain water systems are creating a perfect storm of demand for everything to do with clean water. Bids and RFPs for water treatment grew 12% in the past two years, and municipalities are looking for new ways to treat water using sensors and analytics. Besides the obvious work on the physical water infrastructure, construction companies have market opportunities in preparing sites and constructing facilities.
According to Onvia, cities are the largest buyer of Americans with Disabilities Act services. Counties come in second, followed by school districts, and special purpose districts. Smaller government entities often assume they are grandfathered and not responsible to comply with the ongoing changes in the ADA regulations.
However, that’s not the case, and they represent a significant market for contractors of all types. If you stay informed about ADA requirements and follow how they get implemented in your local market, you will find new project opportunities. If you also pioneer new ways to satisfy ADA requirements that reduce the cost of compliance, you make your solutions more attractive than others that simply offer the same solutions regardless of the many different situations.
There is much anticipation that in 2017 the federal government will return to a more normal budgetary process instead of relying on continuing resolutions to fund government operations. That means the federal government is more likely to pass and fund a highway bill. There is also talk of infrastructure spending, although it’s more likely that won’t get underway until 2018 or later.
States are already preparing sites for roads and bridges, buildings and facilities, and landscaping. These site preparation activities represent a big opportunity for construction businesses because it’s often work that must be done before projects are put out to bid. This is where staying aware of the planning stages of projects can really pay off by giving you a heads up on bid opportunities.
It isn’t just the federal government that spends money on disasters. States, counties, and cities do as well. Disaster service contracts are on the rise, growing 14% during 2016. The types of services include disaster cleanups, assessments of disaster damages, managing recovery from disasters, and preparing for disasters.
Construction firms are well suited for disaster scenarios because they often have equipment used to prepare for disasters and to rebuild, and clean up afterward. Construction people are also well suited for disaster scenarios because they are used to working in challenging situations, have good understandings of job safety, and have many skills that align with preparing for disasters and rebuilding.
You don’t have to be an electrical contractor to gain from the smart lighting revolution. But, it does help to have one in your subcontractor list who knows the ins and outs. Spending on smart lighting is projected to grow 22% per year through 2023, and that’s across all municipal and residential. Bids and RFPs grew 15% during 2016.
Smart lighting uses LED light bulbs and technologies that change the colors, intensities, on and off states, and collect data. This lighting also communicates wirelessly with hosting networks and can even serve to detect gunshots and do other types of surveillance. Public agencies are waking up to the reality that lighting is the heart of infrastructure, and it can now have major impacts on safety and security when it comes in the more affordable package offered by LEDs. The key here is to help key decision makers understand the advantages of smart lighting by becoming a resource to them and helping them see how affordable these systems are, along with their long term benefits.
If you want to take a deep dive into what’s coming up for bid at the federal level, you can use the Forecast of Contracting Opportunities. You can search using keywords and filter by agency, place of performance, acquisition strategy, NAICS code, projected solicitation quarter, and contract type. Then, you can even download your results in CSV format to make it easier to refine your search even further.
Success with government contracting requires a concerted effort. It also helps when you have connections with other contractors who have government experience. And, you need to understand all the ins and outs of working with the government.
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