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Blue Book Showcase connects subcontractors with general contractors

General contractors and subcontractors converged at the Double Tree Hotel Mission Valley Thursday to discuss hot-button issues for the industry during the annual Blue Book General Contractors Showcase.

This was the fourth year the showcase has been held in San Diego, and first time industry-related seminars were held prior to the showcase and networking reception.

Among the issues tackled during the seminars was subcontractor bidding, during a presentation by Ed Wenz, estimator and IT manager for Reno Contracting and president of the San Diego Chapter of the American Society of Professional Estimators.

Wenz outlined the criteria and format general contractors such as Reno prefer when reviewing bids.

"You'd be surprised by some of the bids we receive," Wenz said as he showed a slide of a hand-scrawled bid submitted to Reno by a plumbing contractor.

Wenz advised contractors to type out bids, making sure they are legible and well organized. Subcontractors should prepare bids in larger than 12-point fonts to ensure they're legible after being faxed multiple times.

Bids should include all vital information on the front page, with references to supporting information in subsequent pages.

Wenz advised subcontractors break down bid estimates by trade and specification in order to allow general contractors to see the process and identify any inaccurate line items.

It is also helpful to align all numbers on the page's right side, in order to allow the general contractor to easily scan a form for the total bid amount.

Bids should always include a total of the line items.

Some contractors avoid arriving at such a total in case a line item is unnecessary, relying on the general contractor to tally the total, Wenz said.

"It's still important to provide us with a grand total and let us back out the $32,000 line item," Wenz said.

Bids should also never be submitted in a file format that can be edited. PDF files are preferred.

One of the largest problems for general contractors is the way subcontractors report their exclusions.

Wenz warned against what he called "boiler plate exclusions" -- general exclusions contractors report on all bids regardless of whether they pertain to the project in question.

Such exclusions are confusing to general contractors who are trying to determine whether a contractor can complete the scope of work necessary.

"You can see the exclusions as every problem that every contractor ever had," Wenz said. "We're just trying to determine if you can do the scope of work."

Subcontractors should also notify general contractors if something in the plans is going to be a problem and require a different scope of work or materials.

Because of their familiarity with specific trades subcontractors will often bring to light problems that general contractors may not have noticed, Wenz said.

Bringing such issues to the general contractor's attention will help avoid discrepancies in bids.

On bid day subcontractors should also be available to answer questions after submitting a bid.

"It's amazing how many people go out to lunch at two o'clock after submitting a bid," Wenz said.

General contractors often need to have questions answered about various business qualifications, or about numbers quoted in the bid.

"We may call to ask 'are you sure about this number' if we can get a hold of you," Wenz said. "Otherwise if it's unclear we just have to set aside the bid."

More than 800 people registered for this year's showcase. Thirty-nine general contractors, public agencies and trade organizations manned booths in the showcase and networked with local subcontractors.

Attendance dropped slightly from last year, but given market conditions it was a very good turnout, said Vicki Martin, an account manager for The Blue Book of Building and Construction.

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