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Member Relations Corner: Buy Low & Sell High 

By Rob Shepherd, NCLM Assistant Director of Business Management and Membership Development Services

I’m sure many of you have heard the term "buy low, sell high." This saying comes from the time-honored financial advice of buying stocks when they are at the lowest price and selling them when they are at a higher price in order to generate a profit.

Although municipalities cannot invest in the stock market, there are ways for municipalities to stretch their taxpayers’ dollars by participating in two programs sponsored by the League: U.S. Communities Governmental Purchasing Alliance and GovDeals. In essence, these two programs allow League members to "buy low, sell high." Let me explain.

U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance (US Communities) is a national government cooperative purchasing program that assists local and state government agencies in reducing the cost of purchased goods by pooling the purchasing power of local and state agencies nationwide. Through US Communities, League members have the ability to make purchases through existing, competitively-solicited contracts between a supplier and the lead agency, typically a larger municipality, county or state agency, under the lead agency’s "Joint Powers Authority" or "Cooperative Procurement" program.

Purchases made through the US Communities program eliminate the need for League members to go through their own bidding or procurement process, as the US Communities program meets the existing state and federal purchasing requirements. This allows League members to receive excellent pricing and contract terms on a wide range of products and services offered through the program. Participation in the US Communities is available to League members at no cost.

The US Communities program has developed an "online marketplace" that provides quick visibility into products and pricing, and integrates many US Communities supplier contracts into a single shopping environment, making it easy to shop and compare prices. US Communities offers access to thousands of products from multiple suppliers.

I often encourage League members, when in the process of purchasing products or services, to first review the products and services offered through the US Communities program to see if the product or service is available and to use US Communities’ pricing as a "baseline price" for budgeting purposes. This can help in assuring your municipality is "buying low".

Products and services available through US Communities include: computer and office equipment, technology solutions, automotive parts and lubricants, building maintenance products and equipment, heavy equipment sales and leasing, playground and park equipment, uniform rental, utility and golf carts, and public safety equipment. Suppliers include well-known national manufacturers and retailers.

Considering the second half of my analogy, the "selling high," is where GovDeals enters the picture. It is an on-line auction service for government entities. Since the program began in March 2003, millions of dollars worth of surplus equipment, vehicles and assets from NCLM member governments have been sold through the GovDeals.

Disposal of surplus property through traditional means, such as a local auction or sealed bids, often leads to a limited number of bidders and lower bid amounts. In some cases, municipalities may also encounter unqualified buyers or they may sell only a sporadic amount of the items listed, causing them to fail to cover the time and expense put into the auctioning or sealed bid process.

GovDeals, on the other hand, brings in qualified, ready buyers who are looking specifically for surplus items, creating a government-focused online auction system. Currently, GovDeals has registered buyers from all 50 states and 26 countries who are in the market of purchasing government surplus property. With GovDeals, your municipality’s reach is broader and the probability of obtaining a fair price and disposing of the surplus property is increased.

For more information on these programs, visit the US Communities website at www.uscommunities.org and the GovDeals website at www.govdeals.com.