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Bid to Win: How to Do Business with the City

Bid to Win: How to Do Business with the City

When you picture your ideal customer, who comes to mind? It may not be very obvious, but the City of Thunder Bay’s various departments present a sizeable demand for the products and services of your business. Every week, the City posts new tenders and bidding opportunities that are open to all qualified proponents.

Allan Hensel and Tina Caputo from the City of Thunder Bay’s Supply Management department know what it takes to submit a winning bid. Here’s the insider scoop on how your business can compete to win those city contracts:

  • Address the requirements – City Requests for Proposals (RFPs) will specifically list the requirements of the project, and businesses must directly address each item and demonstrate that they can satisfy the criteria. Tina advises, “Opinions do not matter when we’re evaluating a submission. Even if we are familiar with a company and their services, we can only consider the information they have provided in their submission.”
  • Consider the Evaluation Criteria – Criteria are weighted differently by a points system, so bidders must match the information they provide to how heavily each factor is weighted. Criteria that are most heavily weighted will warrant a greater detailed explanation.
  • Tip: Allow yourself enough time to submit a proper bid. Many bidders make the mistake of not having a full understanding of the document or the weight system. Alan advises bidders to take a thorough look at the request to learn exactly what it’s asking for. Check weekly for new tenders and RFPs to get an early start and allocate an appropriate amount of time to writing a detailed, top-scoring proposal.

  • Meet the prerequisites – All City contractors must provide their WSIB clearance and be prepared to meet all required safety legislation. Businesses should be prepared to bid by having these things already in place so that they are ready when the right tender or RFP is posted.
  • Build relationships – For projects that cost under $5,000, City departments do not have to conduct a competitive bid process, but rather choose the most beneficial and economical option. Allan and Tina advise companies to research departments and their supply needs and make cold calls to decision makers. Be persistent, but do not overwhelm them.
  • Tip: Always respond when a department directly sends you a request for a quote, even if you are unable to provide the product or service for that specific project. Thank them for their request and let them know that you hope to be considered for future projects.

  • Create value through partnerships. Can’t take on a project alone? Partner with another business to combine services and maximize value. Tina says, “Sometimes there is no one supplier who can meet the needs of a project, so if two businesses can work together to submit a joint proposal, it puts them at a huge advantage to other bidders.” Small businesses can also partner with larger companies as a sub-contractor.
  • Tip: New or inexperienced businesses can start with smaller projects and grow into larger proposals. Supply Management advises contractors to only take on as much work as they can handle.

  • Be competitive – The City will consider factors other than the price in evaluating a submission. It is committed to promoting sustainable and ethical procurement, and will favour companies that prove to exhibit environmental leadership and corporate social responsibility. Suppliers that provide value added perks such as free delivery and pickup, as well as other added bonuses will often be awarded additional points. Proving your business’s sustainable and ethical practices and offering to provide complementary services can boost your submission’s score by 5-10%.
  • Tip: If you’ve never worked for the City before, go above and beyond what is expected when you land your first contract. This creates a lasting impression and can help you to be awarded other jobs in the future that are procured outside of the RFP and tendering process.

  • Be timely – A department would rather not wait to have items ordered, so when a city department makes a request to your business, you will be more likely to make the sale if you have the needed items in stock and respond quickly to their inquiries. Seal the deal by offering to deliver the items promptly at no charge.


The Supply Management Division is responsible for providing centralized purchasing for all civic departments. Visit to learn more and to view current tenders and requests for proposals.

The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) and Thunder Bay and District Entrepreneur Centre offers FREE and confidential services to help small businesses start up, expand, and succeed. Their one-to-one business counselling, comprehensive information, consulting, and referral service make them a great first stop if you are starting a business or even thinking of starting a business. The Entrepreneur Centre (EC) can assist you to write a business plan, secure funding, and access other available resources. Call (807) 625-3960 to book an appointment or visit

Thunder Bay CEDC/Thunder Bay & District Entrepreneur Centre

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