While shipping and trade might be the main image for business activities around the Port of Tacoma, the South Sound's largest international import and export exchange is actually an enormous local job-generator.

Specifically, the Port relies on the services of qualified contractors and vendors from a variety of industries throughout the South Sound and Washington state to maintain and upgrade its facilities.

And, yours could be one of them.

“The Port is contracting with all types of businesses, large or small, that are interested, qualified, and experienced in performing the scopes of work that are requested,” said Port of Tacoma director of contracts and purchasing Mark Little, via email.

Contract opportunities at the Port include ventures with vendors that have experience purchasing materials, supplies and equipment; companies that can handle major construction projects; and businesses offering professional services, such as records retention, public relations, technology, legal and training.

In addition, the Port offers short- and long-term deals for architectural, engineering and surveying services.

One business working with the Port that maintains its small works roster is the nationally known MSRC. Although the company doesn't assist with contractor selection, or monitor the types of contracts that the Port advertises, ties to the Port itself have been a positive aspect for business.

“The Port determines precisely how they will use the small works roster, within the requirements of state law,” said MSRC executive director Tracy Burrows. “Also, there are different rules for contracting for public works projects and professional services.”

As for local businesses, Tacoma-based consulting engineering company Terracon recently secured its first contract with the Port, for materials testing and inspection services.

“The Port values quality service, great expertise and responsiveness from its consultants,” Paul Davis, office manager at Terracon, said, “(so) we extend to work hard to provide them with quick and accurate results that enable them to keep their projects moving forward.”

What guidance would Davis give other local businesses looking to snag a contract with the Port?

“The Port values quality service, great expertise, and responsiveness from its consultants,” he advised. “It's (also) important to highlight what your firm does really well that is different from everyone else.”

Little added that, from the Port's perspective, qualities that would best help a business in competing for contract opportunities include attention to detail, and a focus on responding accurately and concisely to requirements in the bid documents.

“Small works contracts are awarded to the lowest bidders who meet both responsive and responsible criteria set forth in the specifications,” he explained.

For consulting with the Port, the types of jobs that are generally available are vast, and cross-cut, within the workforce.

Specifically, Little said, the Port is looking for consultants in architectural (professional license required); building department; building, structure & roadway improvement; communication & media; design & planning; engineering services; environmental consulting; financial services; information technology services; legal services; market research; municipal sewer and water consulting; personnel services; real estate & property services; and surveying & mapping (professional license required).

What can give a South Sound consulting firm an edge over others, he emphasized, is submitting a proposal and/or statement of qualifications that includes information in a clear and concise manner, while simultaneously ensuring complete and detailed descriptions of the abilities to meet job requirements.

“Firms should also exemplify their experience and qualifications for providing the scope of the services being solicited,” said Little, “and offer those services for a price that brings the best value to the Port.”

As for getting on the small works and consultant rosters, MSRC recommends that businesses register on the Port website (free) and select “Port of Tacoma” for their account.