Going Where the Work Is

Sept. 1, 2000

From bridges in Brazil to building renovations right around the corner, it’s now possible to find projects on-line.

How do you find new work, especially if you’re a brand-new company? Are you missing some of the best opportunities because you’re not looking in the right places? How much time should you be spending each week—or each day—scouring for job announcements and requests for proposals (RFPs)?

When J.C. Brummond started Latitude Constructors and Engineers in Seattle, WA, earlier this year, he already had the answers to some of those questions. With a staff of experienced construction professionals, a willingness to travel far in pursuit of the right project, and a taste for the unusual, he wanted a comprehensive source for project leads.

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For nearly five years, Brummond has used an online service called ProjectGuides.com to find work and keep up with who’s doing what in the industry. The Internet-based service provides subscribers with a daily list of preproposal announcements and bid opportunities, RFPs, bidders lists and bid results, and project awards in selected categories. Members can search for qualified professionals, post RFPs online without charge, and advertise their services to buyers. A new feature, Project Connections, will allow companies to maintain their qualifications, capabilities, experience, and resumes on-line to be viewed by qualified buyers.

Choosing Your Category

As president of a construction and environmental remediation company a few years back, Brummond used the service to locate work throughout the western United States and Hawaii. He has stuck with it, he says, because it allows itself to be tailored to his current needs. “You don’t have to weed through if you don’t want to. If you want, let’s say, engineering consulting —boom, plug it in, that’s all the service will send you. Or if you want bridges, it sends you bridges.

“Originally, my primary use for it was from the perspective of a subcontractor. I’d look for big jobs. Some of them I could tackle by myself. On others, I would wait until I could see who the prime contractor was, and then I would know whom to speak to. It allowed me to track and match up my specific talents with the talents of others. Now what I use it for today in a start-up company is another completely different application of the service. I pull down about a dozen categories, everything from various regions.”

The challenge a project presents is as important to Latitude as its geographic location. “I haven’t focused this new company on one particular type of work. What I’m looking for is opportunities that fit my needs, my personal desires, and the talent of the group of people who I have in the office,” says Brummond. Just before starting Latitude, Brummond was the project manager for Hunt-Kiewit – a joint venture between Huber, Hunt and Nichols Inc. and Kiewit Construction Company – on the $500-million, 46,000-seat, retractable-roof Safeco Field baseball stadium, the new home of the Seattle Mariners. He and other members of Latitude have worked on subway tunnels, wastewater treatment plants, bridges, and many other specialty construction projects on three continents.

ProjectGuides.com lists more than 100 industry categories, with more occasionally being added. A sampling: “Architecture/Engineering-Civil/Dams and Levees,” “Construction-Infrastructure,” “Construction-Roads,” “Culverts, Catch Basins and Collection Systems,” “Design/Build,” and “Liners, Geotextiles, Membranes.” Some leads are listed under more than one category.

For one basic monthly fee, ProjectGuides.com lets subscribers pick 15 categories – any combination of geographical locations and industries. Brummond has started out with more than that because his work area covers Western, Southwestern, and Southeastern US and Canada and because he’s searching in a variety of industrial categories. “I went through and picked everything I could and didn’t worry so much about the price. At some point, about six months from now, I’m going to say, ‘I found this to be very valuable in these categories, and these categories I don’t need anymore.'” Because he has chosen many states and provinces, he gets anywhere from four to 30 announcements each day in each industry category. In all, ProjectGuides.com says it delivers roughly 3,000 leads a week to its 10,000 subscribers in all categories. Its sources are local and national publications, government agencies, private companies, and other online sources.

Brummond also tracks categories in which he won’t necessarily bid, such as “Architecture/Engineering-Building.” “Although we don’t do architecture or engineering from a design standpoint, I like to know who’s out there and which owners are advertising for architects and for engineers so that I can track the projects at a very early stage. An owner might be advertising for an architect or an engineer for something that’s three or four years down the track.”

Replacing Paper

Brummond used to rely on the Seattle-based Daily Journal of Commerce to find out about jobs in the Northwest; Dodge Reports, Commerce Business Daily for federal job announcements; Engineering News-Record; and local newspapers. “ProjectGuides (www.projectguides.com) seems to wrap up all that into one package,” he points out. “For chasing work, this is all I’m using right now,” although he still receives printed copies of some of the publications. “For some reason it’s easier for me to sit in front of a computer and scroll through something—delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, save that one—than it is for me to flip through the pages of three or four different magazines at once. Now, exactly what that’s turned into in real dollars and saving my time, I don’t know. I’d just intuitively say this is a smarter way to do it.

“Although my bread and butter is in the Northwest, for the right job I’d go to South America,” states Brummond, who has worked there before. “It would be a rare project that you would go for, but you might just find one of those little golden eggs somewhere in this package.”