Most of us have used online search services to match our skills and location to look for new jobs; now New Jersey companies can do the same when looking for new projects.

RFP Watch 2.0, powered by Choose NJ, is a subscription-based database service that offers NJ companies access to public and private Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Requests for Information (RFIs), as well as other business opportunities throughout the region.

Michael Winter, the chief administrative officer of Choose NJ, is excited about the service, as well as its reception. “I have to temper my enthusiasm,” Winter jokes.

His excitement is warranted, however: RFP Watch users rave about the database, saying it pays for itself very quickly by offering exclusive opportunities to subscribers. The online service aggregates information from more than 30,000 public and private sources, offers about 500 opportunities a day, and ultimately delivers more than 7,000 contract leads per month. “About $2 billion are awarded regionally each week,” Winter says.

RFP Watch is available to NJ businesses — and, sorry out-of-staters, only NJ businesses — for $295 a year, and gives subscribers unlimited access to federal, state, and local government RFPs and RFIs. “We looked at our competition, and our rate is substantially less than anyone else. No one else is offering what we offer,” Winter says. Users will find the expected RFPs and RFIs for construction, contracting, architectural, and engineering jobs. But RFP Watch also offers accounting, marketing, healthcare, IT, equipment sales, and other business service proposals. Subscribers can sign up for E-mail alerts, and can refine their searches in a number of useful ways.

While the subscription service is only open to businesses with New Jersey locations, companies in nearby states can post their requests.

To sign up for RFP Watch, go to https://rfpwatch.choosenj.com/. To find out more about Choose NJ, check out the website: www.choosenj.com.

RFP Watch is one of the numerous resources and tools provided by Choose NJ, a nonprofit corporation to help businesses succeed. Choose NJ was founded in 2010 by Governor Chris Christie’s administration and funded entirely by the business community to encourage and nurture economic growth in New Jersey.

Winter says the organization, and in particular RFP Watch, is helpful for small and mid-sized businesses. “RFP Watch really levels the playing field,” Winter says. “Big businesses have money to spend, but that’s not the case with smaller businesses.” He said their subscription service offers all of the information that’s publicly advertised; and the daily feed lets subscribers know who is winning bids.

RFP Watch 2.0 is the offspring of version 1.0, which was created shortly — and in short order — after Hurricane Sandy. “We started the project in February of 2013, and were online in April,” says Winter.

Winter speaks highly of his work and the efficiency of his coworkers. “There are fewer than 20 people here. We’re a close-knit team with the ability to cost correct and adapt,” he says. “We like feedback and are very responsive. We take it to heart,” says Winter. “Version 2.0 offers a much more user-directed interface and a simplified price structure, allowing users access to all 535 business categories.” The search feature is also vastly improved, he says.

Winter tells a story of how Choose NJ was doing a live demo on the RFP Watch database, showing off its breadth of job categories, when an architect wanted to search the term “wayfinding” when she couldn’t find it within the list of more than 500 categories. They ran a search on projects that might include that term — which refers to how a person orients and chooses a path within a built environment, and the design elements that aid in that experience — and got several hits. “She took out her credit card and signed up right there,” Winter says. “`Wayfinding’ is a very specialized category within other categories, and our search engine found it,” says Winter, with pride.

Winter, a native of Staten Island, is one of six children. His father was a private practice lawyer who was an advocate of the underserved, according to Winter. When his dad died during Winter’s teenage years, his mom, who worked in education, became the “backbone of the family”.

Winter graduated from Baruch College in New York with a degree in Business Management. He spent the last 25 years in nonprofits, and moved to Monmouth County a decade ago, before breaking ground with Choose NJ in 2011.

“Monmouth County reminds me of what Staten Island used to be,” Winter says. Winter is now married and has four children — two boys and two girls — ranging in age from 10 to 22; the family also has two dogs. On the weekends he coaches sports for his children and enjoys playing basketball. “Most of my basketball buddies are enrolled in RFP Watch,” he laughs. “I’m tenacious!”

In addition to subscribing to RFP Watch and utilizing the tools on the Choose NJ website, Winter recommends that people get certified in their fields. Furthermore, if a business is woman or minority-run, registering as such will also open doors, Winter says.

His parents’ commitment to their community is what inspires Winter’s work. “By helping the place I’m living in be a better place, it helps my family. I’m all about family,” he says.

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