Rain Dance

A Detroit entrepreneur grabs a larger share of the Blue Economy.


Published:

 With the global water utility industry expected to double by 2020, Glenn Oliver has developed a cloud-based procurement platform to boost cost savings and help Michigan grab a larger share of the Blue Economy. Called H2Bid.com, the system offers public and private utilities up to 20 percent savings by eliminating the need for in-house procurement systems, paper bids, and misallocated labor.

“We’ve been blessed in Michigan because we don’t see the water bubble that the rest of the world is dealing with,” says Oliver, president of H2Bid.com, located in Detroit’s Midtown District. “The rest of the world, including Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America, is running out of fresh water. Our new cloud-based, e-bidding platform will help public and private interests reduce their water loss and help generate new sources.”

He says major threats to fresh-water supplies include rising population levels, pollution, and climate change. Aging equipment can be another problem; in Africa, for example, poorly installed water pipes can leak as much as 40 percent of the time. In Detroit, by contrast, lost water due to antiquated equipment is generally around 20 percent.

Launched in 2006, H2Bid.com has facilitated more than 100,000 bids, even though the initial system was limited. Utilities could post water and sewerage projects at no cost, but vendors responded with paper bids for a small fee. In turn, once a bid was awarded, most vendors struggled to find local or regional subcontractors.

“With the cloud service, the entire bidding process is paperless,” Oliver says. “That reduces costs, improves efficiency, and creates added transparency (if a utility allows all bids to be posted online). To solve the challenge of linking contractors and subcontractors in a given region or state, we built a separate database.”

Called H2Find.com, both contractors and suppliers — including water and wastewater companies, pipe fitters, electricians, software technicians, testing labs, chemical experts, and dozens of other disciplines — can use the new site to seek out connections and contracts. In the coming months, Oliver plans to offer a vendor-rating tool on the site.

“There are so many disciplines that go into a water or wastewater project when you consider desalination plants, filtration needs, or sludge treatment,” says Oliver, a past member of the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners (1998-2002). “We hope to draw a lot more work in Michigan, especially in the engineering sector.”

Taking advantage of another area of growth, Oliver will boost his Web presence by helping vendors research capital needs as well as tout inventions, innovations, and advances in the industry. “We want to be The Wall Street Journal of water and wastewater treatment,” he says. db

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