Nov 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman
Is there a more complicated niche in the AV universe for installation professionals to service than the governmental facility market? I suppose that's debatable, but I'll tell you one thing — it's among the most complicated niches to cover from a journalistic point of view. Particularly in this era of high security, it can be tough prying details and imagery out of high-end government installations.
All of which makes it particularly cool that Sound & Video Contractor's cover story this month revolves around the audio upgrade work performed in the last year inside the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol building. For longtime readers of this magazine, the story may cause a sense of déjà vu because it's about the same facility and features many of the same players that were involved in the chamber's last upgrade in 1994 — the subject of an S&VC cover story that same year.
This year, we got in touch with Colorado's K2 Audio, the design company involved with the current upgrade and a direct descendant of the company involved with the 1994 work, and the designers offered to produce a sequel to our 1994 coverage. The instructive story illustrates how fundamentally the art and science of audio design has evolved in 13 years.
Some things haven't changed, however — the added layers of bureaucracy and security, along with the added financial and technical pressures involved with government work. Rich Zwiebel, president of K2 and the author of our original article in 1994 — and the sidebar in this issue detailing the changes that have come along for his industry between then and now — knows all about those issues. Zwiebel has had extensive experience doing government work over the last 18 years, particularly with the design of conferencing solutions in legislative buildings. He concedes it's tough bidding, budgeting, and staffing such jobs, and he counsels endless patience.
“There is a definite hassle factor when you are trying to price it out,” he says. “You have to factor that in, and from experience, you can usually get it right. What I've found in bidding those jobs is, read very carefully what they are actually asking for. They really like their I's dotted and their T's crossed. So read what the RFP [request for proposal] says. If they ask you to elaborate, elaborate. If they don't, then don't. Keep in mind, you are dealing with government personnel who might be involved with purchasing all kinds of things, and they might not fully understand everything about what you do. That's what I mean about patience. I wouldn't say government is a huge business for our industry, but it can be a good business — if you know what you are doing.”
For more tips on tackling government projects, see this issue's government roundtable article here.
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