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Frequently Asked Questions
Is CATS a City of Charlotte Department, a County Department or a Transit Authority?
CATS is a department of the City of Charlotte. CATS receives its departmental oversight, budget approval and directives from a county-wide governing Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) and from Charlotte's City Council. The Metropolitan Transit Commission has sitting officers from the City of Charlotte, and each of the towns and municipalities located in Mecklenburg County.
I have a product or service I want to pitch to CATS, who do I need to contact?
CATS is a public department dedicated by practice, law and regulation to open competition and access, a vendor can always go to CATS procurement staff webpage and request that your company's information be forwarded to decision makers including the procurement person who is in charge of the commodity area you are offering or the end-user who would be using it. Every vendor has to remember four things:
First, CATS is a public entity and the organization's procurements activities must follow rules, laws and regulations. In general, solicitations for goods and construction ITBs are awarded to the responsive and responsible bidder with the lowest price. A solicitation for services and complicated projects, such as technology systems (RFPs), are awarded to the vendor whose proposal best meets multiple criteria, including, but not limited to price. Vendor proposals are evaluated by ad hoc committees comprised of staff from one or more City Department(s) As part of the evaluation process, vendors may be invited to present their solution to the evaluation committee. To compete successfully you must demonstrate that your products and services are the lowest cost at an acceptable quality (for bids) or the best solution and overall value (for proposals). Note: The City of Charlotte reserves the right to disengage from a procurement agreement at any point during its term.
Second, city departments make a concerted effort to standardize pricing and to enhance procurement efficiency by engaging in 1 to 5 year agreements when practical to do so. As a result, a potential vendor must wait until an agreement ends, and a new solicitation is being advertised to have an opportunity provide their product or service. The City also seeks to leverage its buying power by engaging in inter-departmental purchasing contracts for some or all departments to utilize. In these instances, individual solicitations to these departments may not be as effective as contacting the Shared Services Department which typically leads these procurements. The City is also eligible to access North Carolina State, intergovernmental cooperative and Federal GSA contracts which tend to have reduced pricing and favorable terms that are typically more favorable than any local government could negotiate alone.
Third, the City has staff that provides in house expertise and niche services for all City departments. (Example 1.) The City utilizes a mixture of own grounds maintenance crews and contractors, so the opportunities for grounds maintenance services is less of an option for vendors. (Example 2.) The City also has an IT staff whose responsibilities include researching and implementing the latest technology. In cases where City Staff performs work in-house, some work may be subcontracted or outsourced, but opportunities may be limited.
Fourth, CATS’ larger solicitations and projects may include the use of subcontractors or sub-consultants. Primes should be aware that there are required steps that must be followed and prohibitions that protect these tiered vendors from mistreatment. To remain in compliance potential primes should pay particular attention and conform to compliance sections within the solicitation documents to prevent rejections of bids (proposals) and clauses in resulting agreements to prevent breaches or terminations of contracts.
What certifications does CATS track for small, minority, women and disadvantaged business utilization?
Currently CATS tracks the Small Business Enterprise Certification (local funding) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Certification (FTA funded projects). The City of Charlotte is currently reviewing expanding the City's economic program to include the State Wide Unified Certification program, which is a Minority and Woman owned business certification program beginning in July 2013.
Geographic restrictions will apply to the new (currently untitled) MWBE program. Only businesses meeting the criteria for registration in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury Combined Statistical Area will eligible for utilization toward goals. The CSA consists of: (a) the North Carolina counties of Mecklenburg, Anson, Cabarrus, Gaston, Union, Stanley, Lincoln, Rowan, Iredell and Cleveland; and (b) the South Carolina counties of York, Chester and Lancaster.
As well utilization goals will be limited to commodity classifications and racial, ethnic and gender classifications identified by the City’s recent disparity studies to require remedial action.
What is the DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Certification)? How do I qualify?
The DBE certification applies to projects and procurements funded by the US Department of Transportation and its agencies including the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, and Federal Highway Administration.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation administers the certification for North Carolina USDOT recipient agencies. I.e. CATS and City of Charlotte Aviation do not perform the certifications. The NCDOT's Unified Certification Program certifies for USDOT funding recipients in North Carolina. City of Charlotte departments use the NCDOT Vendor database to administer the utilization programs. To be eligible, you as the applying disadvantaged individual (s) must be or have a:
- A woman, African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian Pacific American, Subcontinent Asian American, or other minority found to be disadvantaged by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
- Net worth not exceeding $1.32 million - excluding your primary residence and ownership interest in the firm
- A small business size that meets the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) size standard and has not exceed $22.41 million in average annual gross receipts over the previous three fiscal years.
- At least 51% ownership of the business or stock in the corporation.
- Control of the firm's management and daily operations, share the risks and profits commensurate with your ownership and interest.
- All DBEs (certified in other locals) who want to be certified in the state of North Carolina must be certified in their home state initially.
- To get DBE certified or for additional questions click on the NCDOT Unified Certification Program webpage (click here)
What are the benefits of DBE certification? (FTA funded solicitations)
- The NCDOT UCP vendor database is the specified only resource for firms to utilize when meeting City of Charlotte solicitations’ DBE goals, i.e. if your company has the appropriate NAICS codes in their NCDOT UCP profile they have a higher chance of review by primes.
- An increased frequency of notices of USDOT funded contracting opportunities (via email).
- Notice and access to Business Symposiums and outreach events providing information on large upcoming projects such as the Blue Line Extension.
- Post award payment and issue assistance and oversight by CATS staff.
What is the SBE (Small Business Enterprise Certification)? How do I qualify?
The SBE certification applies to projects and procurements funded exclusively by local dollars under the administration of the City of Charlotte. The City of Charlotte’s Neighborhood and Business Services Department-Small Business Program certifies businesses as locally based small businesses. City of Charlotte departments use the Compass vendor database to administer the utilization programs. To be eligible, you as the applying individual(s) must be or have a:
- Principal place of business must be located within the Charlotte Regional Area (Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Anson, York, Union, Gaston, Rowan, Lincoln)
- 51% or more of the applicant business must be owned by one or more “Eligible Owner(s)”
- “Eligible Owner(s)” must have a Personal Net Worth under $750,000 (with exclusions)
- Applicant businesses must be licensed and for-profit
- Actively in business for one year
- Applicant business must perform a commercially useful function
- Applicant business cannot exceed the approved threshold size standards
- To get SBE certified or for additional questions click on the City Small Business Program webpage(click here)
What are the benefits of SBE Certification? (Exclusively locally funded solicitations)
- Your company information is included in the Citywide Vendor List
- On informal lower cost procurements internally your company information is regularly provided to end-users in CATS divisions, who are looking for those products or services.
- You’ll receive more frequent notices of contracting opportunities, including construction projects estimated between $ 100,000 and $200,000.
- Utilization goals are set or commitments negotiated when subcontracting is anticipated and appropriate on formal solicitations. (in excess of $100,000- services or $200,000- construction)
- Orientation on How Doing Business with the City
- Networking events and opportunities
- Business and technical assistance from the small business office.
- Post-award subcontractor payment and issue assistance and oversight by staff.
I just got my SBE certification, so what now?
Are you a SBE Certified by the City of Charlotte? Remember certifications are not interchangeable and are tailored for the specifically funded projects. So a MWBE certification or state NCDOT SBE certification are not the same nor may be treated by the City of Charlotte the same as a City SBE certification.
- Before you were certified did you check if the City has contracts in place for the goods and services you are offering?
CATS has dedicated staffs that specialize in their designated areas. As a part of their positions they research and receive training in the current developments in their industries. The result is that they are aware of new product/services types. As well, frequently changes occur by necessity. (Click Here for information on “How to do Business with the City of Charlotte")
- Did you check to see what the term of the contract is or when the renewal date occurs?
The need for the area of products and services that you sell may already be under contract. But there are limitations on the terms of City Contracts. Typically most contracts last from 3 to 5 years. A new solicitation will occur once the previous contract’s term is over. That means a new evaluation process will occur including low bid, responsive, responsible, and or the identification of the most qualified vendor. CATS Procurement (CATS Contracts),Shared Services (Citywide Interdepartmental Contracts) or The City Clerk’s Office (All contracts)
- On larger procurements, look for emails from CATS and other City Departments if an opportunity is occurring in a commodity code listed in your company profile. Internally, as well, your company information is frequently circulated to procurement personnel and end-users on smaller procurements. Your company representatives are welcome to request a departmental contact from procurement to directly market your business.
I just got my DBE certification, so what now?
Are you a DBE Certified by the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Unified Certification Program? The DBE certification is a federal certification that state DOTs administer. In fact firms who operate in several states must get DBE certified by the state DOT in each of those states to qualify for DBE utilization. Remember certifications are not interchangeable and are tailored for the specifically funded projects. So a MWBE certification, City of Charlotte SBE or private MBE certification are not the same nor will be treated by the City of Charlotte the same as a NCDOT DBE certification.
What happens during procurement where subcontracting is not anticipated?
If there are DBEs or SBEs who provide the product or services applicable to a planned procurement, staff attempts to include them where applicable in the quote, bidding or proposal process as potential primes through notifications, internal communications to procurement personnel/end-users and/or hosting pre-solicitation information sessions.
What happens during large and small procurements?
During large FTA and locally funded procurements CATS reviews the proposed solicitations and sets utilization goals when subcontracting is anticipated and when DBE/SBE vendors have the appropriate commodity in their profile. The DBE/SBEs in those profiles are notified of opportunities to meet prospective primes and provide contact information.
CATS Civil Rights staff receives updates from a procurement services requests system with requests by end-users. On smaller procurements, staff regularly notifies end-users and procurement staff of certified firms who offer product or services in commodity types requested by the end-users.
Where can I get information on CATS upcoming and currently solicited projects and opportunities?
Which local associations provide free review of plans and specifications?
Organizations such as the Metrolina Minority Contractors Association (MMCA), the Hispanic Contractors Association of the Carolinas (HCAC) and the Carolinas Association of General Contractors (CarolinasAGC) are notified of projects by CATS and frequently purchase copies for their members to review.
Does CATS provide free plans and specifications?
No, typically CATS requires all plan holders to purchase copies. The price varies based upon the volume and requirements of the print jobs.There are exceptions, in the case of the BLE plans are being made gratis (free) to the plan holder rooms listed below:
Organizations such as the Metrolina Minority Contractors Association (MMCA), the Hispanic Contractors Association of the Carolinas (HCAC) and the Carolinas Association of General Contractors (CarolinasAGC).
Do primes ever offer free viewing of plans and specifications?
Primes frequently offer viewing of plans and specifications either at their offices or via the web. The procurement office the project usually has information on where they can be viewed electronically. View the (procurement contacts page) or the solicitation for contact information. The officer can also provide a copy of the plan-holders list for firms to contact to ask to review the plans and specifications.
Where can I get information on the Blue Line Extension solicitation schedule?