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Cooperative Agreements: The Timing is Right... NOW!

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As much as everything changes, some things still remain the same. Our schools still need what they need, and want what they want. Options for competitively bid contracts, or cooperative agreements, are undergoing growth. Growth that is a direct reflection on the procurement world’s desire for developing efficiencies that reduce costs, save time and more importantly, add choice.

Reduce costs

The amount of inquiries I receive daily is a direct reflection of modern economic circumstances and the need for institutions to do more with less. The concept of sharing procurement resources cooperatively started years ago with only a few solutions. Today, cooperative efforts have expanded the breadth and diversity of the products and services offered and continue to grow in acceptance as the need for efficient, costeffective solutions increases. I am a firm believer that the cost to explore existing solutions is much less than the RFP process, and the rewards are possibly greater.

Even though every school is different and has many unique needs, the vast majority of purchases one school makes are the same as those purchased by every other school. Cooperative agreements recognize the shared needs of schools and leverage the volume of a total membership to drive value and create solutions that meet bid requirements.

Compare the pricing you have historically paid for a product to the price offered through the cooperative agreement. Don’t forget to factor in the soft cost of doing the procurement and weigh the fact that you are getting exactly what your department needs.

Save time

How much time does your staff and department spend to procure all the commodities needed within your district? Instead of duplicating the bid process, dedicate your staff and resources to high priority projects and procurements — those that make you unique or that clearly offer a greater ROI through a formal bidding process. More time could allow you to repurpose your staff to take on greater challenges like green initiatives, life-cycle costing, e-procurement or even expand your role and proactively develop streamlined procurement strategies throughout the entire district.

Add choice

Competitively bid contracts put choice in your tool belt. Choice allows you to pick a product, local dealer or brand. Choice lets you prioritize life-cycle costing over low bid. Choice can allow you to respond to “I need it now.”

Each of your departments has a vendor community with which it interacts. Utilize their connections to choose the cooperative agreements for the products and services they desire. Everyone is willing to tell you what he or she wants and the specific brands they desire.

Reduce costs, save time and offer more choice to your departments — consider cooperative agreements. The choice will still always be yours. I happen to think the time is right… now.

Duff Erholtz is the manager of Membership Services for the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) and can be reached at 218/894-5490, duff.erholtz@NJPAcoop.org or www.NJPAcoop.org.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

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