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Another Voice: Transparency is needed in state procurement process

By Marty J. Walters

One small business’s efforts to be a part of New York State-funded building projects provide examples of both problems and possible solutions regarding the state procurement process.

Background: As general manager of a local company that produces a high-performance building envelope (winner of the State Governor’s Award for Energy Excellence), I harbored optimism that we could help save energy and money in taxpayer-financed buildings.

Expectations rose when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order 88, which intends that the most energy-efficient and cost-effective materials should be used in state-funded projects.

One hurdle my company faces is that because our wall system must be considered in the early stages of design, we need timely access to the contact information for a project’s design team.

The current procurement system does not allow easy or timely access to such information.

For example, at a public meeting concerning RiverBend in January 2014, I made Empire State Development officials aware of our company’s past experience with state projects. Specifically, I mentioned that we are told it is too early to talk to the design team, and then when we finally reach the design team, we are told it is too late, because materials have already been chosen.

Sure enough, it happened again at RiverBend. I talked to the developer in April 2014 and was told that it was too early in the process to talk about design, and that I should call back in a couple of months. Three weeks later, I read in the paper that great progress was being made. I contacted the RiverBend design team, and it had already made the decision to use a different wall system.

On more recent projects, when I requested contact information for the developer of state projects, I was told that the ESD does not share that information. Occasionally, ESD officials have told me that they will forward my information to a project’s developer or design team. That just doesn’t cut it.

As Empire State Development takes over more projects, can I make a suggestion?

Post a list of state-funded projects with contact information for developer and design team for each project worth over a million dollars.

New York small businesses can help save energy and money, but we need a seat at the table. If developers don’t want the hassle of talking with people who think their product can improve a publicly funded building, then they can choose not to bid on that project.

We support pay to play the old-fashioned way: We pay New York State taxes. Let us speak with the people whose projects we fund.

Best wishes for Howard Zemsky and the Empire State Development team as they continue their good work.

 

Marty J. Walters is general manager of NRG Insulated Block in Derby.

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