U.S. Communities Aggregated Purchasing Saves City Time and Money
For cities, placing bids and purchasing common items often becomes a tedious process that consumes a lot of precious staff resources. That’s why for many cities, GMA’s free service through U.S. Communities—a nonprofit that helps lower costs related to aggregated purchasing—is essential. As Chris Bailey, Purchasing Agent at the City of Monroe, says, U.S. Communities saves time—and that saves his city money.
More specifically, U.S. Communities helps Bailey eliminate the often 45 day period of advertising, collecting, and evaluating bids—and that time doesn’t include all of the preparation work that happens before a city sends a bid out. And while larger cities can benefit from lowering the cost of high volume bidding, Bailey points out that smaller cities can also benefit from U.S. Communities. Even if they use the service once a year, Bailey says, it’s still extra time for someone on a small staff to focus on other work.
Bailey talked to GMA about how U.S. Communities streamlines Monroe’s bidding process, how it saves time and money throughout the year, and why small or large cities can benefit from the power of this free service.
What was Monroe’s situation before you started using U.S. Communities?
We previously purchased everything by following our purchasing policy. We bid items to both vendors we used internally and also any other potential bidders who contacted us. Like any other city, we made purchases based on analyzing all formal or informal bids we received. Time constraints were always a problem. We have a large suite of utility services including water, sewer, gas, electric, cable, phone, and Internet. Bidding items related to all of those utilities was quite challenging in terms of time. It got to the point where every bid became rushed. Plus, the ideal bidding process involves creativity in structuring bids, thinking about them, and analyzing how to get the best value for our dollar. That kind of creativity becomes difficult to accomplish under such time constraints.
Why does Monroe use U.S. Communities instead using another resource?
For any larger purchase, it’s much easier to go through U.S. Communities instead of spending the time internally going through the entire bid process. First, U.S. Communities is much more efficient and timely by eliminating that usually 45 day period of advertising and having a bid sitting out there—and those 45 days don’t include writing the bid, reviewing it, and analyzing it. U.S. Communities has already done all of that work.
That’s because U.S. Communities is bid through larger entities such as Los Angeles County, Calif. Obviously, a county of that size is going to have a bigger pool of vendors from which to solicit bids. As a result, we get a much more competitive bid process and more competitive bids returned. We receive national bids as opposed to what smaller cities can attract on their own. Broadening our horizons through a bigger pool of vendors is the biggest way U.S. Communities has helped us.
What results have you seen from this service?
It’s an easy service to use. If we need something quickly, it’s easy to access the website, find a lowest bidder for a particular item, contact the vendor, and get the information we need right away. U.S. Communities saves us time and allows our purchasing department to work on other things as opposed to hammering out one or two bids for 45 days. We’re able to spend more time on smaller purchases, monitor our current in-house inventory, and focus on larger projects because U.S. Communities essentially bids some items for us. Even just one less item to bid internally allows for more time to bid on other, items in a more efficient manner.
For cities with similar challenges, what would you say to them about the importance of using a service like this? Is it beneficial for a smaller city?
All cities have the same goals and tackle the same problems—just at different levels. Whether you have five or 50 employees, if U.S. Communities saves you time then it saves you money. Especially at a smaller city where people wear many hats, any time a service exists that takes away a little bit of the headache and the bidding work out of the hands of your employees, then those employees are freed up to focus on other roles and tasks.
For cities that are skeptical about U.S. Communities, think about saving time. Saving time saves money no matter what the size of the city. It’s time saved if you use it once a year, 10 times a year, or 100 times a year. And for the most part, everybody I’ve encountered through U.S. Communities responds within one business day. It’s a very easy tool to have at your disposal. Think of it like the Amazon of the public sector world.