U.S. Communities – the Gold Standard for Cooperative Purchasing

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then U.S. Communities ought to be blushing. It was the first – and for a while the only – purchasing cooperative for local governments. Now, the field is crowded with wannabes that claim to save money and streamline purchasing for local governments. But seven key facts distinguish U.S. Communities from the others.

    1. Significant Savings at No Cost to the Public Agencies:  Since 2001, the program has saved public agencies over $1.7 billion.  More than 55,000 public agencies use U.S. Communities contracts to procure more than $1.4 billion in products and services annually. U.S. Communities contracts have no fees or costs to participating public agencies and non-profit organizations.  Registration is free and public agencies are not required to commit to minimum amounts of purchasing.  Purchasers can use the program as much or as little as they desire.
    2. The lead public agency model:  From its first contract offering in 1996 U.S. Communities initiated the use of a “lead public agency.” Each contract offered by the program has been publicly solicited by a large lead public agency on behalf of all other local and state agencies in the United States.  The lead agency takes responsibility for structuring bid documents, assembling a national team of experts to review responses, documenting the bid tallies and awarding the contract to one or more qualified firms.  Public agencies across the country can access these contracts that have already been approved.
    3. The public agency oversight model:  U.S. Communities provides program oversight and compliance with professional public procurement standards through its advisory board of 28 public procurement professionals representing cities, counties, schools, higher education and state government.
    4. Lowest Cost to Government Commitment:  Suppliers must agree to specific terms and conditions before the contract is awarded. A key commitment is that the supplier provides their best overall government pricing. An agency will not get better pricing from the supplier through their own contract or another cooperative.
    5. Program Audits:  U.S. Communities provides internal and third-party audits of the contracts on the program.  Each year approximately 10 contracts are audited by a third party independent auditing firm for compliance with contract pricing, terms and conditions.  The goal is to audit each contract every three years.
    6. Contract Benchmarking:  U.S. Communities uses four benchmarks to validate its best pricing commitments:
      a.  another large contract held by a U.S. Communities supplier,
      b.  a contract held by a competitor of a U.S. Communities supplier,
      c.  the results of a bid process,
      d.  retail pricing in the marketplace.In 2012, seven of 27 contracts had benchmarks performed, showing overall savings of 15% for program contracts. Benchmarking will be performed on the other 20 contracts over the next two years.
    7. Professional Association Sponsorship:  U.S. Communities was co-founded as a public benefit cooperative by the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, the National League of Cities and the Association of School Business Officials to help public agencies procure goods and services on a cooperative basis.  Over 70 state associations of counties, cities, schools and purchasing groups endorse or sponsor the program at the state level.  This overwhelming sponsorship by professional government associations strengthens the value of the program and assures significant oversight for program participants.

This program has its roots in California.  Originally developed by the CSAC Finance Corporation as “California Communities” in the late 1980’s, California counties were instrumental in developing and implementing the extremely high standards of the program.  Many others have come along and attempted to recreate what California built, but not one of them offers the level of commitment and transparency that U.S. Communities delivers.

CSAC is a proud sponsor and founder of U.S. Communities.  More than 2,000 counties in the United States are registered to use the program.   For 15 years U.S. Communities has provided significant hard dollar savings on commodities and service, as well as soft dollar savings on avoided administrative costs, to public agencies nationwide.  For more information, contact Laura Labanieh Campbell at llabanieh@counties.org  or Rob Fiorelli at rfiorelli@uscommunities.org.  Go to www.uscommunities.org to begin saving money for your county today!

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