by Vanessa Villarreal, USACE Chicago District, Public Affairs Office
This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District hosted a virtual business opportunities open house to provide information on the district's overall mission and upcoming projects, solicitations, and business opportunities. Seventy people registered for the event that included information on the contracting process, how to compete for projects, a discussion on construction management and internal design/engineering services, and a view of planned advertisements for this fiscal year.
“Thank you for being with us today in this virtual environment,” Col. Aaron Reisinger, commander, Chicago District, said. “The district’s been extremely busy the last few months responding to COVID-19, and continuing to prepare and deliver our program. We proved that we can get the job done in this environment if you apply really strong self-discipline and safety measures on a project site. We’re proud of the work we accomplished.”
In addition, a realignment was implemented recently and district boundaries grew from 4,500 square miles to 27,000 square miles.
“Our area now includes the entire western Lake Michigan watershed in Wisconsin, the upper 35% of Indiana, and the entire Kankakee and Fox River watershed in Illinois,” Reisinger said. “Then add another 14 dams to the inventory along with 21 harbors, and 2 locks on the Chicago area waterway system. A pretty extensive growth in our baseline operations program.”
Regina Blair, chief, Contracting Office, spoke about the “ABCs” of contracting, and the 27 planned advertisements for this fiscal year. She said key components of the contracting mission are A = "activities," entailing the behind-the-scene procedures prior to advertising acquisitions; B = "binding," where the legally binding document is established; C = "compliance," pertaining to the contract clauses and provisions and where pertinent clauses, if unclear or misunderstood, should be inquired about.
Phil Stravrides, chief, Construction Branch, explained that his office is responsible for construction management – ensuring that projects are done safely and adhere to contract scopes and schedules, and that payments are made.
And he said the most important part of what his office highlights is quality and safety.
“We enforce a strict safety policy and demand that construction meets the requirements of plans and specifications,” he said. “Safety is the law. It’s the ethical thing to do. We don’t compromise safety for expediency. Safety is the #1 priority for us.”
He also recommended that all contractors create a safety program because it’s required for all federal government projects via EM 385-1-1, the Corps of Engineers’ Safety and Health Requirements Manual.
John Groboski, chief, Design Branch, spoke about his team members’ involvement in the program and their area of expertise such as hydraulic modeling, environmental engineering, ecosystem restoration, and electrical fish barrier power distribution.
“We conduct most of our designs in-house and we align the technical expertise of the staff with the scope of the project,” he said. “This may include supplementing teams with members from other districts. The teams will develop design and contract documents, and each team is assigned a project manager and technical lead that works with contractors. This includes going over construction documents, and plans and specifications.”
Michelle Williams, deputy for Small Business for the Chicago and Detroit districts, talked Small Business Office updates, and the new government contract opportunities website.
“Effective June 30, 2020, Woman-Owned Small Businesses will require third party or SBA certification,” she said. “Self-certification for set asides and sole source contracts will no longer be available.”
Also, FedBizOpps, the federal government's website (FBO.gov) for posting all procurement opportunities with a value of more than $25,000, is no more. It has been replaced by www.beta.SAM.gov.
“As of November 2019, ‘SAM’ is the official U.S. government website for people who make, receive, and manage federal awards,” Williams said. “It’s a more efficient way to access all federal award information.”
Blair said that she missed the usual face-to-face engagement of passed business opportunities open houses.
“I felt extremely grateful by the well-received interest in our open house,” she said. “I felt our diverse presentations armed the participants with some great and vital information to conduct business with us. While I think the preferred setting for industry is physical presence and one-on-one conversations, should this become our new normal, we will need to find a way to elevate our virtual conferences.”
Reisinger added that the open house really adds up to continuing the open lines of communication.
“It’s about helping you do business with us,” Reisinger said. “My entire staff is always prepared to take your calls and help you succeed in responding to our needs. So really today is helping everybody be successful. And that’s always our goal. To help our partners be successful.”
For information on how to do business with USACE Chicago District, visit the Contracting Office webpage at https://www.lrc.usace.army.mil/Business-With-Us/Contracting/ or Small Business at https://www.lrc.usace.army.mil/smallbusiness/.