The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) annually procures approximately $600M in purchases of goods and services, as well as construction, to provide safe and reliable water and sewer services throughout the DC Metro Area. DC Water is mindful of its responsibilities in the promotion and growth of regional business interests. In 2009, DC Water unveiled its Business Development Plan in an effort to further promote economic and business development within the region. DC Water is committed to promoting and supporting certified businesses in achieving a fair share of work being offered. Growing small businesses to compete with larger, more established contractors helps DC Water keep its costs down while also improving the local business economy.
Through this plan, DC Water actively encourages and supports the participation of certified local businesses, local small business enterprises, and disadvantaged (minority- and women-owned) business enterprises in its contracting and procurement activities, at all tier levels. Its mission is to foster the growth and competitiveness of the local, small, and disadvantaged business community; to help remove barriers to their participation on DC Water procurements; and to assist the development of firms that can compete on an equal footing in the market place and have a positive impact on the regional economy. While this plan is intended to strengthen and grow local and small businesses, the plan also serves to create more competition in the marketplace and thereby reduce the impact on ratepayers.
For construction projects supported by federal assistance (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants), DC Water’s policy stipulates that certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) will have a fair opportunity to compete for and to participate in federally assisted contracts and subcontracts. As of September 30, 2016, there are fifteen active construction projects supported by federal grants, with a base value totaling $280M. In accordance with DC Water’s policy, 35.5 percent of that ($99.6M) has been awarded to certified MBE firms and an additional $17.2M (6.13 percent) has been awarded to certified WBE firms.
DC Water intends to build upon these results by broadening its outreach efforts to qualified DBE firms. The utility now annually conducts up to ten sessions around the District targeting those certified businesses that may have an interest in the work being solicited. These sessions are also an opportunity to make prime contractors aware of the DC Water DBE requirements as well as an opportunity to enter into subcontracting relationships with qualified subs. Moreover, DC Water’s newly designed website presents contracting opportunities in an easily read format that keeps the contracting community apprised of the opportunities as well as the requirements. Finally, DC Water employs a compliance team that is dedicated to alerting primes and subs of upcoming procurements as well as ensuring that certified firms have an equitable opportunity to participate in those projects.