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Many firms want to engage in a face-to-face discussion to learn about the public procurement process.

COURTESY: METRO - Gabriele Schuster is the Procurement Manager for METRO.

Not many people know how government contracts get issued. I certainly didn't start thinking about it until several years ago, when Metro's Procurement Services division was moved to a spot near where I worked.

As an observer, I remember it seemed busy. People from different departments and private business people dressed in suits would walk by my office several times a day to meet with procurement.

The procurement manager seemed in a hurry, looking quite serious most of the time. I rarely heard staff chatting about matters other than procurement.

I overheard phone conversations about bid deadlines, meetings, various scopes of work and what not. I saw staff carting around stacks of big envelopes. Often they would walk by with a laptop case and a black cart. I wondered what all of that was about, the envelopes, the carts and all.

Years later, now as the procurement manager, my questions have been answered. The stacks of envelopes on the cart are bids and proposals for large projects, ranging from construction to goods and services or professional services.

The many phone conversations are related to either assisting departments in the purchasing process or helping businesses with questions in regards to bids and proposals they want to respond to. It is a very busy office.

Daily, we find ourselves in numerous discussions with project and department managers about procurement approaches and methods in order to get the best overall value for our agency and the public dollars we are stewarding.

Many diverse firms interested in doing business with us want to engage in a face-to-face discussion to learn about the public procurement process, not to mention the complex paperwork that is associated with procurement and contracting.

It is a complex process that is mandated by the state's procurement rules and our agency's administrative rules but it provides for fairness, transparency, accountability and equity.

Equity in contracting is on our minds every single hour of the day. Whenever a department approaches us with a procurement request, we engage in discussion about the best approach to create a contracting opportunity for our diverse business communities.

Remember that laptop case and black cart? We use those for conducting outreach to reach small business communities to open up the world of government contracting. We attend business chamber meetings, business associations and nonprofit networking events. We host business networking luncheons, evening events and hold our own annual small business open house. We invite businesses to workshops on how to write winning bids and proposals and how to do business with government.

These events allow us to connect with the diverse business communities in our region in order to learn about their expertise and how they can help governments achieve best results in construction jobs, acquiring goods, improving and maintaining our services to the public and functioning in the most effective possible way in order to be of value to the public we serve.

We're working hard to help small businesses have an opportunity for success.

This may sound too emotional or cliché, but I love my job. I love the fact that we can have a positive impact on small business development. We have a choice every day not only in what we purchase but in how we purchase.

With our commitment to add value to the procurement process and our compassion for the people we serve we have the ability to assist small businesses in being successful to get a contract with our agency.

Our procurement services team as many others that I know in our regional jurisdictions are dedicated folks who chose to work in public sector procurement because they want to serve the public well and create opportunities for small businesses to grow and be able to compete in the market.

As public agencies we have created a community of procurement people working in partnership with business chambers and associations as well as business owners in order to open up contracting opportunities for diverse firms, many of which are considered historically underutilized.

Gabriele Schuster is the Procurement Manager for METRO. She can be reached at 503-797-1577 or by email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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