Types of available information

Bids, RFPs and Grants

To award a contract to a vendor, a government agency typically uses one of three different procurement types: a bid, an RFP, or a grant. Each of these is included as a project category in the Online Database.

Though the term "bid" is often used generically to refer to any agency procurement, these three procurement types are technically distinct from each other in terms of what the agency is seeking to purchase, how the procurement is managed, and how the contract is awarded. Here's a basic definition of each type:

The advertisement or invitation from an agency for vendors to bid on a contract to provide goods/services as described in the scope/specification/bid document. Bid awards are typically made based on the lowest price submitted for the product or service.

Stands for "request for proposal." With this procurement type, factors in addition to cost are considered and weighted in awarding the contract, and the method of award is "best value" and not lowest price. Often, an agency will issue an RFP instead of a bid because it hasn't determined what solution is best-suited to its needs and is inviting companies to propose their own proprietary solutions and to negotiate with the agency on both the product or service being offered and its price. This type of procurement is often also referred to as a request for information (RFI) or request for quote (RFQ).

These awards are based on funds given to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations or local governments by foundations, corporations, government departments and agencies, or individuals.

Project History

As Onvia tracks the various stages in the procurement process for a given bid or RFP, those stages are archived under the Project Timeline tab on the issuing agency's page in the Online Database. This allows the user to follow the progress of each bid in one location all the way through to the contract's award. The Project Timeline tab can include any or all of the following, depending on how the issuing agency manages the bid:

  • Advance Notice: The announcement by an agency of its intent to move forward with a project and award a contract at a future date.
  • Amendment: A change to a bid, RFP or other procurement document issued by an agency to the vendors that intend to submit a bid or proposal; often, this is the result of a change in the date and time by which bids/proposals are to be submitted to the agency.
  • Award: The announcement by an agency of which vendor has won the contract for a given project and the dollar amount of the contract.
  • Bid: The announcement by an agency that it is seeking proposals from qualified contractors/vendors for a contract to provide certain products or services to the agency.
  • Bid Results: The publication by an agency of vendors' price proposals for a given project.
  • Cancellation: An agency's announcement that it has terminated the procurement process for a project contract.
  • Grant: The announcement by a government agency that it intends to award funds to businesses or individuals that are best qualified for a specific project. Currently the Online Database lists only federal grants, such as those from the U.S. Department of Education and Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Planholders/Bidders List: The publication by an agency of the companies or vendors that have expressed interest in submitting a proposal for a given project.
  • Presolicitation: Similar to an Advance Notice, a presolicitation announcement informs prospective vendors that the agency intends to award a contract at some future date and provides details about the scope of work and estimated budget for the project.
  • RFP/RFI/RFQ: Stands for request for (proposal, information, quote); the issuance by an agency of the documentation necessary for prospective contractors/vendors to submit a formal proposal to be considered for a contract award.
  • Short List: The announcement by an agency of the finalist vendors it has selected for a contract award. The agency then typically meets with each vendor to negotiate on price and the specifics of the products or services to be supplied before making a decision on the award.
  • Sole Source: An agency's announcement that only one vendor has the capabilities and/or specific products or services necessary for completion of a given contract, and that the agency intends to award the contract to that vendor.
  • Subcontracting: The announcement by a bidding contractor or project owner (i.e., the prime contractor that has won a given contract with an agency) that it is seeking qualified companies to bid as subcontractors to supply goods or services for certain portions of a project. 

Agency data

Each agency page in the Onvia Online Database contains a variety of key information about the agency and its personnel, including the following:

  • Address (including a link to its location on a map)
  • Level of government (i.e., Federal, state, county, city and town, school district or special district )
  • Agency function (such as education, general purpose, transportation, etc.)
  • Annual expenditures
  • Population served
  • A link to its procurement history (when available) that displays details on its contract awards over the past few years
  • Number of employees
  • Fiscal-year end
  • Website address
  • Year-over-year gBusiness activity: Total purchases (number of procurements by this agency month to month, over a two-year period) and purchases by industry (number of procurements by this agency categorized by the type of purchase, month to month over a two-year period)
  • Lists of buyers (the procurement-office purchasing staff) and decision makers (city council members and other elected officials, department directors, legal and law-enforcement personnel, etc.).
  • Links to information on how to do business with the agency (when available)
  • Links to the agency's spending forecasts (when available), which contain budgets and projected expenditures for future years.

Agency Purchasing Charts

These two Year Over Year gBusiness Activity charts are included in the Overview tab on every Agency Details page. They let you quickly identify the agency's purchasing trends, areas of specialization and spending priorities and help you determine whether it's an agency you should consider targeting.

The Total Purchases chart displays the number of bids and RFPs issued by the agency each month over the past two years.

The Purchases by Industry chart shows the number of purchases the agency has made in each Online Database industry vertical, year-over-year, during the past two years.

The following procurement types are included in the purchasing totals shown on the Purchases by Industry chart:

  • Advance Notices
  • Presolicitations
  • Bids
  • RFPs
  • Grants
  • Sole Source Contracts
  • Awards

Note that because projects are sometimes categorized in more than one industry vertical, the total number of purchases reflected on the chart will almost always be greater than the total number of the projects the agency has issued over the two-year period.

Agency and Project Contacts

The Project Details page for each project listed in the Online Database contains the following contact information for the project's buyer at the issuing agency:

  • Name
  • Title
  • Street Address
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Fax number (when applicable/available)

In addition, each agency page in the Database contains a purchasing staff directory for that agency and, in many cases, a listing of decision makers that includes such officials and executives as city council members, county executives, department directors, sheriffs and police chiefs, auditors, assessors and legal personnel.

How to Do Business With / Agency Registration

The "How to Do Business With" tab on agency pages in the Onvia Online Database will be displayed whenever this information is available on the agency's website. In this tab, you'll find links to agency website pages where you can get more details about how to register and/or prequalify as a vendor/contractor with the agency and how to participate in any special vendor programs the agency provides, such as small business certifications.

Spending Forecasts

The Onvia Online Database's Spending Forecast Center provides you with access to annual budgets and capital improvement plans (CIPs) issued by agencies at all levels of government that extend years into the future.

These documents, most frequently issued by city, county and state governments, contain projected expenditures for all departments and offices and provide budgets for and descriptions of major projects and purchases that are scheduled in the upcoming fiscal years.

When you search the Spending Forecast Center by keyword, your search results will display links to the PDFs of the plan and budget documents that contain the keyword. You can then search the PDF to find the budget line items and planned expenditures that reference the keyword.

From these projected expenditures, you can often determine whether the issuing agency may have a need for your product or service in the coming months and years.

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