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Contractors say sub database is a scam

This screen capture from First4Bid.com shows a sample of a pre-qualified subcontractor form.

J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. isn’t recommending any subcontractors cough
up their $385, no matter what anyone else says.

The Madison-based contractor was taken by surprise earlier this month when
Milwaukee-based Uihlein Electric Co. Inc. called inquiring about Findorff’s
apparent qualification of the company to join First4Bid.com, an online database
of what the company deems “the most reliable, responsible and qualified”
subcontractors, suppliers and vendors that costs $385 to join.

“Uihlein called last week saying First4Bid was soliciting them to join
the list of registered subcontractors, and that J.H. Findorff & Son had
suggested them,” said Dan Petersen, Findorff’s vice president of finance.
“It was news to us.”

And it was news to four other Wisconsin-based contractors, too. The fax that
First4Bid is sending out to subcontractors names Brookfield-based M. A. Mortenson
Co., Milwaukee-based Gilbane Building Co., Milwaukee-based Opus North Co. and
Madison-based Tri North Builders Inc. along with Findorff as project managers
with access codes to use First4Bid, and like Findorff, all four contractors
have denied any knowledge whatsoever of First4Bid.com.

“We got information about a week ago from [Fond du Lac-based] JF Ahern
Co. saying that we’d qualified them to sign up, and we hadn’t even
signed up,” said Doug Heinrich, Mortenson’s chief estimator. “We
didn’t know anything about First4Bid.”

Michigan firm unresponsive

Heinrich said Mortenson has contacted Southfield, Mich.-based Construction
Communications, the parent company for First4Bid.com, and told it to cease and
desist but has not heard anything back from the company yet.

Petersen said Findorff has yet to hear back too, but that his call might have
come as a surprise to the company.

“I called over there and when I told them why I was calling, the receptionist
immediately got uptight about it and put me through to the president, but I
didn’t actually speak to him – just left a message saying cease and
desist,” he said.

The Daily Reporter’s own calls to Construction Communications President
Lance Kamin were not returned Friday.

Heinrich said he wondered if First4Bid.com somehow got a hold of the member
list at iSqFt.com, an Associated General Contractors-approved preconstruction
service site. He said that Mortenson, Findorff and and Tri North are all registered
with iSqFt.com, but Petersen said he doubts there is a connection.

“The people at iSqFt.com said it’s not too probable, because First4Bid
used different punctuation and capitalizations in company names than they did,”
he said. “That’d be a lot of changes to the database set up for hundreds
of companies.”

Construction Communications’ Web site is tagged with a Better Business
Bureau Reliability Program stamp, but Vickie Galpin, the vice president of BBB
of Detroit and Eastern Michigan Inc., said Friday that it will start an investigation
of the company.

“We’ve had no complaints against them, but we’re going to put
their report on update now,” she said.

If First4Bid.com continues using the contractors’ names, some have said
that legal action will follow, but Petersen said he just hopes Wisconsin subcontractors
aren’t duped.

“A lot of these fax scams start like this,” Petersen said. “$385
is in the right range for companies to pay for it without really stopping to
think about it, and it starts to add up quickly. We just want it to stop.”

One comment

  1. Gilbane (RI), Mortenson (MN), and Opus (MN) are NOT based in the MKE area. Their MKE area offices are large satellites of their corporate HQ, each based in other states.

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