What It Takes to Win a Major Public Sector Contract

A focus on "doing well by doing good" helped AMP Solar seal a deal with Canada's largest school board

Written by Alexandra Bosanac

In 2011, AMP Solar won a major contract with the Toronto District School Board—$450 million to install solar panel on the roofs of 523 schools, one of the largest that the board had ever tendered.

The school board would use the energy to power the school and to earn extra revenue by selling it back to the grid through a provincial program. It was not an easy contract to win, recalls David Rogers, the president and CEO of AMP Solar, which develops, owns and operates solar assets globally. The then two-year-old company was in competition with more than 50 solar energy firms that had also entered bids. When AMP was named the winner,it made national headlines.

The deal with the TDSB also helped push his company the #4 spot on the 2015 PROFIT 500 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies. AMP Solar grew sales by a whopping 10,763% between 2009–2014, raking in revenues in the range of $20–50 million.

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“The deal was, ‘You lease our schools and pay us our lease rate, and we get to do whatever we want with that capital. You, the developer, have unfettered access to the rooftop, but anytime you’re doing any work you’re doing it within the guidelines of the school,’” recalls Rogers. The former Bay Street financier thought he could do them one better. During a walk-through of one of the participating schools, he noticed the roof was in dire need of repair. “There were buckets on the ground for the leaky roofs,” says Rogers. “If you’re a building owner, the biggest risks are holes in the roof and leaks.”

Rogers came back to the TDSB with a new offer—in lieu of paying rent to the board,AMP Solar would team up with a roofing company to help front some of the costs of the repairs. The board would get to keep the earnings from the panels and have some long overdue repairs made.

“We really did think about it and from a long-term standpoint.” says Rogers. “We thought, ‘What are people really going to require here if we’re going to propose to put solar on everyone’s rooftop over the next five years? What are the critical things people are going to worry about?’” The answer, he concluded, was finance and risk. “That’s when we put those two things together and that created the compelling story in the marketplace,” says Rogers. “Even though in hindsight it doesn’t seem that compelling, it wascompelling in Ontario.”

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Although it didn’t look that way from the outset, being a small, local company also ended up being an advantage for AMP Solar. “We could easily compete [with] guys that were global [but] that had small teams where Ontario really wasn’t their focus,” Rogers says. “They were much more focused in US or Europe and we were all in in Ontario.”

At publication time, the TDSB says 111 sites are now connected to the grid while another 40–50 sites are at different stages of construction.

Rogers remembers walking away from that deal feeling proud—not only had they’d scored a major win for their newly-minted company, but that he had made a difference. “The critical mantras around here is ‘doing well by doing good.’ We can see from our work that we’re impacting the environment in a positive way.”says Rogers. “Who would’ve thought we could actually make a real change in the classroom?”


Has your company ever won or bid on a major public sector contract? What was your strategy for working with government? Share your tips and experiences by commenting below.

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