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Preparation Critical in Tampa's Selection

A large pre-bid conference helps provide the Florida city with a large pool of candidates for an e-government portal.

Bryan M. Gold
October 30, 2000
Government Technology Magazine

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As many good chefs will note, the secret to success is in the prep work. Take a carrot cake, for example, where the preparation involved could be monstrous.

When Tampa, Fla., dangled a carrot in the form of having companies bid on being able to build and manage an electronic government portal for the city, the pre-bid conference included between 80 and 100 people representing an estimated 30 to 40 companies. That large turnout was set up by the preparation efforts of city employees.

For example, Steve Cantler, Tampa's MIS project leader, conducted Internet searches and looked for companies that provided or were starting to provide the applications the city desired. Cantler looked at trade publications and contacted other government jurisdictions.

"From there, quite frankly, it snowballed as word got out from one agency to another," Cantler said during the process. "I started getting inquiries both via telephone and from the Web. The other thing was that organizations started to identify what the city was doing and posted it to their sites. The actual notification process was twofold: Purchasing, by procedure, sent out a postcard mailing to everybody on the list. I didn't think that would be timely enough and so independent of the historical method, I used e-mail lists to accomplish that. I got a lot more response and quicker response. I didn't do any mail follow-up."

Aided by the large turnout at the pre-bid conference, the city received eight bids by the deadline, and Tampa might have received more bids had officials granted the extensions vendors had earlier requested. The city trimmed the group to a few finalists and then worked with the GartnerGroup to select the vendor. On Friday, more than a month after the vendor had been selected, Tampa officials announced that they had completed negotiations with NIC to build and manage a comprehensive eGovernment portal for the city.

Through the portal, Tampa residents and businesses will gain improved access to government services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In many cases, the need to make time-consuming, in-person visits to a city office for records or transactions will be eliminated.

"The Tampa eGovernment portal will enable us to use the Internet to better meet the expectations of citizens and businesses in Tampa and beyond," Tampa Mayor Dick A. Greco said on Friday. "Our objective is to leverage technology to provide greatly improved customer service for our citizens and businesses."

NIC officials said that through an innovative funding model developed by the company, portal services will be provided in a cost-effective manner to Tampa residents without requiring any upfront investments by the city. NIC will provide the infrastructure and staff expertise required to develop, maintain, and host the eGovernment services, while the city will retain ownership of the content, data and statutory fees. A convenience fee on some services will support the portal's development, maintenance and expansion.

"NIC is proud to have been chosen as Tampa's electronic government partner," said NIC Local President Ray Coutermarsh. "We look forward to teaming with the Tampa government's forward-thinking leaders to provide eGovernment solutions that increase satisfaction and generate efficiencies for Tampa citizens and businesses."