Given the current state of the construction market, it's not uncommon to hear electrical contractors say, “There are absolutely no jobs out there to bid on!” Although it may be true that construction activity has slowed to a crawl over the last few years, there have always been — and will continue to be — electrical construction jobs out to bid. But where do you find them in this climate? And, more importantly, what do you do once you find them?

Electrical contractors can find new construction leads through a variety of sources. Federal, state, and local authorities are required by law to post their jobs for an extended period of time in local newspapers and/or in industry publications. General contractors (GCs) also post jobs on their own Web sites. In recent years, however, public announcements in print have given way to online posts on industry-related Web sites. If you're not familiar with these types of Internet sites and bid lead services, you need to get with the times — and fast.

Where are the leads?

Construction leads are always published somewhere. Thanks to the Internet, it's much easier and cost-effective to find them. For example, a quick Google search for “construction bid leads services” should introduce you to services you might not have been aware of. However, here's a word of caution: If you're not familiar with a particular service, ask for a “trial” before you buy. In addition, ask for references of other clients you can call to see if the service is working well for them. Although this may be obvious, make sure the construction bid lead service actually lists jobs that pertain to electrical divisions 16 or 26.

Watch the coverage area

There are a few things you should know before starting your search for construction bid leads in your area. Construction bid boards can promote national, regional, or state jobs. Typically, the more comprehensive the “draw” area of the board, the more expensive the subscription. Therefore, if you mainly work in the state of Connecticut, for instance, you'll want to subscribe to a service that includes only Connecticut job leads. Why pay for something you won't use? On the other hand, if you work in multiple states, you'll want to seek out job lead bid boards that have a more extensive coverage area.

Understand the fee structure

Construction bid lead services charge you a subscription fee, which is typically based on an annual rate. Some companies require payment for the entire year at the beginning of your subscription, while others may charge you a monthly fee. Inquire about a “trial subscription,” if you are unsure about the benefits of a particular lead service.

Popular sites

Perhaps the most recognized online bid board in the industry is Dodge Reports (www.dodge.construction.com.) You can search Dodge Reports by geography, building type, and project type. Formats range from a weekly publication, daily bulletins, and newspaper formats. Updated daily, Dodge Reports estimates that at any given time it is tracking almost a half million active projects. Subscription plans begin for as little as $39.99 a month for 25 leads. If you're going old school, you can also order Dodge Reports in print.

Reed Construction Data (www.reedconstructiondata.com) is also a respected name in the construction lead arena. Whether you prefer receiving project leads online or through its regional weekly publications, Reed Construction Data delivers comprehensive commercial construction project information. Accurate, up-to-date, and detailed information is available on thousands of commercial and civil construction projects nationwide. Depending on your business needs, you can filter your search by location, keyword, project category, stage, and more. In addition, once you find a project you would like to bid on, you can also access the plans and specifications via this Web site. Finally, you can also receive bid date reminders and automated project update notifications via e-mail.

BuildCentral's ConstructionWire and Bid Notice (www.constructionwire.com) products deliver timely, accurate construction project information in a user-friendly format. ConstructionWire is an online database of construction projects (mostly private and commercial) in the planning, bidding, and pre-construction stages. Bid Notices keeps you updated with construction bid opportunities in your area. Updated daily, it is sourced from thousands of purchasing agencies and project owners. You can select coverage by county or state, which is handy for selecting multi-county or multi-state areas. According to its Web site, monthly charges for one state coverage costs $49.95 per month, with additional states costing $24.95 each per month.

An excellent regional source of leads for jobs up and down the Eastern seaboard of the United States plus Texas is CDCNews (www.cdcnews.com), which covers both public and private sector construction with project descriptions, pre-bid meeting notification, plan holder information, and bid results.

BidClerk (www.bidclerk.com) is another national services company that allows you to view plans, specifications, bid dates, and project start dates by location. There are no long-term commitments, and you can cancel at any time. Short-term subscriptions are also available, although you can save money by buying an annual subscription.

The job boards mentioned in this article are just a sampling of what's available, if you take the time to look. For an overview of some of the more popular sites, see Getting Onboard on page C24.

Two-for-one deals

Many of you are probably familiar with the “Blue Book of Building and Construction” (www.thebluebook.com.) In fact, many of you have probably advertised in this publication, the benefits of which are two-fold. First, your listing allows GCs working in your area to find you. Secondly, if you advertise in this book, you will also be provided with job leads in the area in which you advertise via its bid board called BB Bid. Even if you're not interested in placing advertising in this book, you can at least sign up for a free listing.

Don't forget the government

If you're a small, minority-owned, woman-owned, or veteran-owned business, don't forget to check out opportunities available to you via the government. Many projects have portions of work that are “set aside” for disadvantaged businesses. Check out state and national government procurement Web sites or www.setasidealert.com.

The last word

Whatever path you choose to ultimately find your construction project leads, remember to follow up after you submit your bid. The squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Don't let the company you have submitted your bid to just toss you in the pile of “maybes.” Until the project is awarded, you will continue to have an opportunity to sell your company and its strengths. Remember, it always pays to pursue every avenue of work.

Candels is president of Candels Consulting, an electrical estimating consulting firm in Niantic, Conn. She can be reached at lacandels@candels-consulting.com.


Sidebar: Getting Onboard

Following is a list of a few of the more popular Web-based job lead boards in the construction industry. Electrical contractors can tailor their online experience based on their wants and needs.

www.thebluebook.com

The Blue Book's BB-Bid provides users with invitations to bid on private projects from general contractors, property managers, facility managers and real estate developers on a nationwide or regional basis.

www.dodge.construction.com

Find projects by state or type, order plans online, or read Dodge reports in print or via the Internet. Customers can customize services based on their specific needs, and Dodge offers national coverage.

www.reedconstructiondata.com

“Connections” is Reed's complete source for construction project news, lead management, and related resources. Coverage spans the United States and Canada.

www.cdcnews.com

CDC News focuses on the commercial construction industry. Its verified bid information includes verified cost estimates, quantitative project descriptions, and more about commercial construction projects up and down the East Coast and the entire state of Texas.

www.bidclerk.com

Private, public, and single family projects can be found on Bid Clerk. Developers, construction managers, and more can post their projects on BidClerk to solicit bids for their projects. Nationwide coverage plus Puerto Rico is available.

www.jobs2bid.com

Jobs2bid offers both a bid management system, regional lead service, and plan room. General contractors can digitally post jobs and plan sets, while electrical contractors can search hundreds of leads every month in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Florida.

www.constructionwire.com

ConstructionWire and Bid Notices provide more than 8,000 commercial construction reports and bidding opportunities every month across all 50 states.