Paper is less important in our lives every year. More and more things can be handled electronically, through the Internet. The state of New Jersey is updating its bidding process to join that electronic revolution. Within the next year all purchasing bids will be accepted electronically by the state, rather than through the traditional sealed envelope practice.

To help companies do business with the state government and with municipalities, the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce hosts a free seminar, “New E-Bidding for State Contracts: Step by Step,” on Thursday, April 6, at 9 a.m. its new office at 1A Quakerbridge Plaza Drive, Suite 2, Mercerville. Register at www.mercerchamber.org.

Jack Naiman, director of the division of purchasing and property, New Jersey Department of the Treasury, leads the seminar. Now, Naiman explains, businesses have the option of submitting bids either electronically or on paper. “We want to give everyone six to twelve months to become comfortable with the process,” he says. “Some industries are ready to go electronically, other still need to make the transition.” The electronic process is scheduled for full implementation by July 1, 2007.

The electronic bidding process duplicates traditional sealed envelope bidding, Naiman says. In sealed envelope bidding, bids are delivered to the state and placed into a locked box. All bids are opened at the same time, on a specified day and hour.

The new process uses Adobe Reader software to enable bidders to deliver their bids to an “electronic sealed box.” As in traditional bidding, the bids will be kept secure in an “electronic locked box” until they are downloaded — opened electronically — at a specified time.

While the E-bid process follows the same rules as the traditional process, several Web-based features will provide new benefits and flexibility to businesses, says Naiman.

Change your mind with ease. The electronic process allows businesses greater flexibility in selecting RFP (Request for Proposal) notifications. In the past, companies needed to write a letter requesting the areas in which they wanted to receive bid notifications. If they wanted to change categories or add additional categories they needed to write another letter stating the changes to be made. Now this process can be handled through the Internet.

Stay up to date. In the past, notifications pertaining to advertised RFPs were made sent mail. These notifications will now be provided by E-mail, increasing efficiency and decreasing the time it takes for a company to receive notification. In fact, new contractors are no longer being added to the traditional bidders’ mailing list, and must register for E-mail notification. Companies listed on the old list must still register and select commodity codes to receive the new E-mail notifications. Reminders of bid opening dates will also be sent to businesses via E-mail.

Save time and money. The electronic process reduces duplication of effort, says Naiman. Because basic information about the business can be saved on the computer, it need not be re-entered each time a new bid is made. The bidder also no longer has to insure that the correct number of copies have been made for each person on the purchasing committee, because copies will be automatically sent to the committee by E-mail. The process is also inexpensive for companies, he adds, because it uses Adobe software that can be downloaded at no cost from the Internet.

Get faster delivery. Because bids are delivered by E-mail the new process will reduce rejections caused by bids not being delivered on time. “People no longer have to worry about getting caught in traffic and being late to deliver a bid,” Naiman says.

Cut out errors. The new process will also help businesses reduce rejections because of errors in their bids. “The software tracks the process and reminds you of your status,” says Naiman. “If you have to stop in the middle and come back to the bid it will remember where you stopped.” The software will not allow the user to move on and send the bid until all of the sections are filled out.

Who needs to be aware of the new electronic bidding process? Anyone who wants to do business with the state, says Naiman. The state government is the largest purchaser in the state, with more than 700 contracts on-going at any given time. “We purchase services and products for the operation of the state internally as well as for the delivery of services to the public,” he says. Everything from stationery to food to consulting services, pharmaceuticals, information and communication services, fleet services, and much more.

Local governments also “piggyback” onto many state contracts, Naiman says. All of the information a company needs to bid on government contracts is available on the state’s website, www.state.nj.us/treasury/purchase. All bids are advertised on the website, and the step-by-step process to register and receive a PIN number can also be handled there.

In addition, contractors can do a state contract search, check for current and anticipated bidding opportunities, and read a list of frequently asked questions about the E-bid process. The list of questions includes a wide variety of information, from how to obtain or change a PIN number, to how to choose the proper commodity code for your business, and an explanation of some of the features of the E-bid process.

It’s early days, but it appears that E-bidding is a win-win. The state, and therefore, at least theoretically, all of its citizens, save money formerly spent on postage and the manpower needed to stuff and open envelopes. Businesses also save on postage, but, more importantly, have one less thing to keep track of thanks to E-bidding’s automatic notifications.

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