A 2011 FHWA report said: "JOC does provide a vehicle to attend to minor repairs in a timely manner. … Initial comparison indicates that work performed through the JOC contract is substantially less costly than a 'where and when' contract."

The NYSDOT catalog has been updated for bridges, highways, overhead signs and culverts, says Weykamp. "If you made discoveries in the field under a lump-sum contract, say unsound concrete, it was difficult to find limits on a traditional estimated bid. With JOC, you just pay for what was removed. There's no fighting over how it was removed and no bringing in a backhoe when you could do it with a shovel."

Nathan Crozier, a district program manager with the Ohio Dept. of Transportation, utilizes JOC for county garages and other buildings. "It has worked well with projects that have a timeline attached to them and when I need a capable contractor to get the job done at a competitive price," he says. "I normally have more control over the time frame and cost."

The process is not a panacea. Proponents caution that it is not applicable for larger facilities or major new construction. Weykamp notes the learning curve and time needed for contractor buy-in. But he says, "We get an average of four to six bidders per contract. The pricing is fair, the bid has an adjustment factor that's typically under what you get in disputes. I definitely think it is essentially a mini-version of design-build. We've let about 64 contracts, and there has not been a single dispute."

As for the learning curve, "JOC is a bit of a round peg in your square hole," Weykamp says. "The superintendent now has to go through that catalog and find items, and that is difficult. The Gordian Group does provide a field guide that really helps us find the right items."

The Lusk Group's Forshey notes that during the procurement, "all the line items, everything is all on the table. The owner sees exactly what they're getting. For a contractor it's nice, because it's the same thing. The cards are all out there from the start."

The firm also recently began offering cooperative JOC purchasing, called ezIQC. "JOC lends itself well to facilities, so agencies with budgets of a few million dollars and above are typical JOC users," says Coffey. "But a lot of agencies out there spend a couple hundred thousand a year. So we put out a cooperatively purchased JOC." That has helped boost Gordian Group's client list to nearly 400.

But the firm, in which global private equity firm Warburg Pincus recently acquired a majority ownership, looks to grow even more aggressively. "Thanks to the ezIQC product, we've signed up a lot of smaller entities, like park departments and municipal transportation departments," says Pollak. "We'd like to accelerate that. No region is saturated with JOC. If anything, we have to restrain ourselves as to what we go after."

One of the opportunities may lie in selling information in the construction task database, which grows with every new client. "We have this database for pricing local data with 260,000 data points," says Pollak. It's used every day by our clients, and I believe there are other people out there interested in that data."

Bowers, a long-time secretary for the Center for Job Order Contracting Excellence, a nonprofit advocacy group, also is confident the method will spread. He teaches part of the first-ever certificate program, now in its second year, in JOC Alliance of Construction Excellence at Arizona State University. "Every project is an audition for your next job. If you don't do a good job, it comes home to roost very quickly. There is a sense of fairness built into the JOC system. It's invigorating. I have a 45-year background in construction, and I have a ball doing this."