The Board of Directors of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida (ACEC-FL) have placed great value on partnering arrangements with local governments and state agencies to enhance the working relationships and overall business environment between the consulting engineering community and public clients in Florida. The term "partnering" is borrowed from the construction industry where owner/contractor relationships accept normal business risks and partner for the overall good of the project. "Partnering" fits well with our profession’s goal of strengthening the owner/engineer relationship. It is a practical way to understand client’s needs, improve performance, and solidify relationships. It will also reduce costs, litigation, and the stress of contract negotiations and administration.
Grass Roots Involvement by ACEC-FL Members
The ability to effectively partner the consulting business with local governments and state agencies has its roots in the strength of the owner/engineer relationship. "People do business with people they know; people partner with people they know and trust." Partnering is not new. It is simply a return to old fashioned values where a handshake means you will take responsibility for your work. ACEC-FL professionals now have another successful way to build trust and confidence with local governments and state/regional agencies outside the bounds of the engineer/owner contract relationship. A working committee composed of principals from ACEC-FL member firms and senior staff representatives from local governments and state/local agencies is established for the purpose of improving business practices between consulting engineers and public clients.
Several examples of successful partnering committees already exist. The ACEC-FL Transportation Committee is a successful and effective Partnering Committee with the Florida DOT. The ACEC-FL/Department of Management Services Partnering Committee is also an active committee. Local Government Partnering Committees also exist and are already working in Broward, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. Each committee deals primarily with business practices and contracting issues and is, therefore, a working committee reporting to the ACEC-FL Business Practices Committee.
Why Partnering Committees?
Don’t FES and ACEC-FL already represent engineers in private practice?
Yes and no. FES is dedicated to furthering the engineering profession on a statewide basis in Florida through educational, governmental, and social activities as well as promoting member involvement in Florida’s communities served by local FES Chapters. FES represents engineers in government, construction, education, industry, and private practice. The statewide business interests of engineers in private practice are looked after by ACEC-FL, a business league representing the consulting engineering industry which has been active at the local level only in times of need.
For example, the Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act (CCNA) has been a Florida law for several years, but its applications is governed by local practices evolved by staff interpretation in many jurisdictions. On a case-by-case basis, ACEC-FL has addressed CCNA issues with local governments. However, a more proactive approach would be for CCNA-related issues to be the focus of the these ACEC-FL/local government partnering committees.
Many principals of consulting firms have passed through the chairs and provided many years of service to FES and ACEC-FL on a state wide level. The local ACEC-FL committees can provide a local forum for these principals to focus their many years of consulting business experience for the improvement of local government selection and contracting practices.
How is a Partnering Committee formed?
A recognized consulting industry leader must take the lead in introducing the concept to a local government or state/regional agency. A one-on-one visit by a professional held in high regard is essential. The local government or agency must be allowed to participate in naming the committee members. Typical membership includes principals from large, medium, and small consulting practices, with additional representation from MBE/DBE firms.
A six or seven person committee should be carefully formed with individual member selection based on the following:
- Principals in consulting firms should be doing business with the local government or agency;
- The firm should be a member in good standing of ACEC-FL;
- The firm’s principals should be primarily engaged in the practice of consulting engineering, architectural engineering, land surveying or engineering testing;
- Each individual should be a member in good standing of the local chapter of FES. Such members agree to abide by the NSPE Code of Ethics;
- Each member should have a solid record of distinguished service to the engineering profession; and,
- On specific issues, members of the ACEC-FL Board of Directors can be requested to participate in the dialogue.
The committee should meet with the local government or agency as often as necessary to open a dialogue, identify issues, and develop a process for partnering the practice of engineering. Committee members will be expected to conduct research as necessary to facilitate the work of the committee. Some firms may have legal counsel available to support the efforts of the committee.
Since many design profession issues are common to architects, it is sometimes more effective to create joint ACEC-FL/AIA committees to deal with major governmental contract and negotiation problems or concerns.
Any ACEC-FL firm principal interested in establishing a Partnering Committee with either a local government body or a state or regional agency should first contact the ACEC-FL Executive Vice President, in Tallahassee. ACEC-FL will ask about the particulars of the situation and the working environment for consultants with this client. A member of the ACEC-FL Business Practices Committee will then be assigned to provide guidance and assistance to the designated Partnering Committee coordinator. The experience and processed used by the existing Partnering Committees are freely available to any new groups established.
What information is available on the CCNA?
The ACEC-FL office in Tallahassee has published "Selecting a Consulting Engineering Firm" as a guide for local governments and state agencies since many local selections and contracting processes are variations of the law and adapted to local procurement practices. As other publications become available on the state and national level, these will be noticed in the "ACEC-FL Update" newsletter.
- What procurement and contract issues normally arise?
- CCNA requirements versus price requests for proposals;
- Selection committee make-up and procedures;
- Factors for professional/technical evaluations;
- Interview and/or presentation format and time allowance;
- Contract scope of service;
- Standard contract language;
- Professional liability issues including indemnification/third party liability;
- Lump sum vs. Hourly contracting;
- Design/Build contract issues;
- Construction services concerns; and,
- Agency in-house design versus contracting out.
These are only a sampling of the issues facing the consultant and local government.
How do we keep the local ACEC-FL membership informed of the issues and progress made by the Committee?
A local breakfast setting is an excellent forum to receive comment and advise member firms on progress of the committee. The local Partnering Committee coordinator will be responsible for organizing the meetings. The meeting(s) can be set up monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly as needed. Any other schedule or meeting forum convenient to the committee should be considered so that maximum participation/involvement is fostered for an effective committee. Remember that you will be meeting as a business league and must comply with certain practices to avoid legal problems or public criticism.
- Publish an agenda and follow it;
- Record the minutes of the meeting and publish a summary to participating members;
- Do not discuss pricing or any cost issues; and,
- Do not take group action or sanction any type of boycott or group positions.
Always remember, the intent is to partner with local government or state agency in order to work toward the common good of the community and jointly protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.