Estimates of what it will cost to address the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Harvey continue to climb. Companies of every size and type are burning up the phones attempting to get information. Some hope to provide immediate assistance while others are more interested in long-term rebuilding opportunities.
Texas communities desperately need both types of assistance, so this column will attempt to provide pertinent information regarding how to obtain details about both short- and long-term contracting opportunities.
The short-term contracting opportunities will be more difficult to capture for companies not already vetted by federal and state programs. However, there will be an abundance of subcontracting opportunities. Large firms already vetted by a federal agency will be seeking local subcontractors, especially ones that can quickly deploy workers.
The larger, long-term opportunities will unfold over the next six months and last for at least the next four years. Pursuing longer-term opportunities will be a more structured process but the opportunities will be abundant, diverse and extremely large.
Here’s how it all works when a disaster occurs.
Immediately, federal agencies move into the affected region and set up shop to provide assistance related to rescue and cleanup. Every city has a designated emergency management director and usually a command center, so the people working in this capacity connect and coordinate with federal employees on the ground. However, until the danger has passed, there is little focus on cleanup and rebuilding. All efforts are directed toward saving lives.
Local firms may be registered with a municipality or hold some sort of contract through a cooperative purchasing program. That will enhance the likelihood of getting an immediate contract. For others, the best plan of action is to contact the division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) known as SAM (System for Award Management). For questions, call the SAM help desk at 866-606-8220.
Companies should also check with these divisions of FEMA:
- Federal Business Opportunities – This is a free web-based portal that allows vendors to review federal procurement opportunities over $25,000. Registered contractors can receive procurement alerts by signing up at this site: fbo.gov
- FedBid – This is a fully managed online marketplace connecting sellers to federal and commercial opportunities. Register at fedbid.com.
Representatives of agencies of the federal government, particularly FEMA, arrive in the disaster region with a stockpile of essential emergency supplies. Their distribution of items such as water, food, cots, tarps, roofing sheeting and blankets is executed according to successful plans used during past natural disasters. Later, these same federal employees will become involved in contracting and the awarding of grant funding to state agencies for specific types of work.
Private-sector firms with additional products to offer should work with FEMA through FedBizOpps. For services, FEMA turns first to the General Services Administration U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Contractors may register with the USACE for work after successfully registering with SAM.
Emergency Management Offices in local areas have pre-determined contracting procedures but there is no common process, so it is necessary to contact each office. Some short-term contracts will likely be awarded locally for emergencies such as debris cleanup, housing, construction, food service and health and medical supplies and services. The goal of local, state and federal officials, however, is to have a more competitive approach to contracting.
FEMA’s Procurement Disaster Assistance Team in the Houston area will be heavily involved in determining where grant funding is awarded. As Texas counties are added to the Presidential Disaster Declarations list and funding awards are made within the region, contracting will begin. Contractors should check with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Management Division. Information for contractors can be found here.
Small and minority firms should also reach out to the appropriate organizations below for assistance:
Houston Minority Suppliers Development Council
- Website: www.hmsdc.org
- Contact: Angela Freeman
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 713-271-7805
- Fax: 713-271-9770
Golden Triangle Minority Business Council
- Website: www.gtmbc.com
- Contact: Beverly H. Hatcher
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 409-962-8530
- Fax: 409-722-5402
Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance
- Website: www.wbea-texas.org
- Contact: April Day
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 713-681-9232
Asian Contractor Association
- Website: www.acta-austin.com
- Contact: Aletta Banks
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 512-926-5400
Insurance companies also maintain a list of approved private contractors. To be placed on one of these contracting lists, call an insurance company and ask for the “property repair program” in the claims department and follow the company’s instructions.
Government officials are extremely busy at this particular time, but for a “Who’s Who” list of officials who will be involved in disseminating information and providing assistance in the coming months, click here.