3 ways to meet your equity goals through cooperative procurement

Across the country, public agencies are focusing on advancing equity in contracting. Achieving more participation from local and diverse businesses can be challenging. You may assume that you’ll need to choose between the ease and speed of cooperative procurement and your agency’s equity goals. Actually, cooperative procurement can be a powerful tool for advancing equity in contracting and driving economic development in your local community. Here are 3 ways you can leverage cooperative purchasing to advance equity in contracting:

#1 Discover existing cooperative contracts with local/diverse businesses on them.

If you’re a buyer at a public entity with established policy goals around supporting small and diverse businesses, you likely spend a lot of time identifying diverse suppliers. This process can be cumbersome, especially if your procurement team is already understaffed and pressed for time.

CoProcure’s technology makes it easy to discover diverse suppliers already on cooperative contracts, including suppliers in your region. Of the more than 60,000 contracts available through CoProcure, 1 in 3 have diverse suppliers. These suppliers are available through cooperative contracts from national purchasing cooperatives, as well as piggybackable contracts from state and local public entities, too. Use diversity filters to quickly and easily search for cooperative contracts with diverse suppliers.

“CoProcure’s search engine allows me to find local, small and disadvantaged businesses - so our county can support those business communities and meet those goals.” -Maria Agrusa, Procurement Officer for Orange County

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas utilized CoProcure recently to identify a Workday implementation partner for a project worth over $100,000. Through CoProcure, they discovered a State of Massachusetts contract with a veteran-owned business, Remy Corporation, headquartered in Colorado. Cooperative contracts make new businesses available, including different types of businesses, even across state boundaries. In this case, a Massachusetts contract with a Colorado business was able to be used by a Kansas agency!

#2 Push to include local and/or diverse businesses when you use cooperative contracts from national purchasing cooperatives.

National purchasing cooperatives tend to work with suppliers that can serve the entire country. When you use national purchasing cooperative contracts, push to have local or diverse businesses included. And, if your entity creates national cooperative contracts, you can bake equity or support of local businesses into the contract from the start.

Lourdes Coss, former Chief Procurement Officer at the City of Houston, TX and Cook County, IL, explained how she did this at Cook County, IL. When using a national cooperative contract with Grainger, she was able to work with Grainger to onboard a local manufacturer to their catalog. This was an opportunity for Cook County to support a local business by utilizing the Grainger contract, and to help that business serve a larger, national audience, too.

“If a cooperative contract is used nationwide it opens the door for a local business to expand their initial reach and sell all over the U.S.”

Keith Glatz, Purchasing and Contracts Manager at City of Tamarac, Florida worked with OMNIA Partners to develop a national cooperative contract for office supplies with Office Depot. From the beginning, Keith knew he wanted to be able to work with local businesses as subcontractors through the contract, so he included a clause in the contract that enabled Office Depot to subcontract with local distributors.

“There are different paths you can follow to reach your equity goals. When you are a big agency who creates contracts, you have the clout to do this with big suppliers. This makes it easier to find diverse suppliers than you might think.”

Using a national cooperative contract, or even serving as a lead agency on one, doesn’t preclude you from working with local or diverse businesses through that contract. A little extra work can help local and diverse vendors grow their business and contribute to the economic development of the community in the form of tax revenue, job creation, and increased spending power in your local community.

#3 Add cooperative language to your entity’s contracts so other public entities can work with your local and diverse vendors…

When creating your own entity’s contracts, one thing you can do is add cooperative or piggybackable language to generate business from local and diverse suppliers. At Cook County, Lourdes’s team awarded a contract to a minority-owned business and included cooperative language. This made it available to public entities across the county, who were able to leverage the contract instead of bidding it out.

This tactic allowed other Cook County entities to not only save time on purchasing, but also meet equity goals. And opening the door through a cooperative contract allowed the vendor to get introduced to adjacent buyers and grow their business regionally.

…and publish your data!

If you publish your contract data, other public entities - and the diverse and/or local vendors you have on contract - can benefit. Orange County recently partnered with CoProcure to publish their contracts for free using CoProcure’s technology.

“The platform gives me a free contract management repository to facilitate internal collaboration, which Orange County has never had before. We are able to publish Orange County data for the first time, and have a platform for our users to find OC contracts.” -Maria Agrusa, Procurement Officer for Orange County.

By publishing their contract data, Orange County improved the experience for their internal County users, plus made their data available to other public entities in the region and beyond. In the last 60 days, there have been more than 150 page views of Orange County contracts, and more than 80 of those views have come from entities outside of the County. This is great for regional leadership, and means more visibility and business for locally-based suppliers on Orange County contracts.

For example, a buyer searched on CoProcure for “paper recycling and destruction services” and found this Orange County contract listing Shadowhawk as a supplier, which is a local business based in Orange, California.

Bonus: Educate your local and diverse suppliers about cooperative contracting.

One final way you can help promote equity in contracting through cooperative contracts is to make sure that the local and diverse businesses in your network know about cooperative contracts and how to participate in these contracts. Unfortunately, many businesses still don’t know about cooperative procurement or how it can help them grow their business. CoProcure worked with a small group of public procurement professionals to write up this guide for businesses. Please consider sharing this guide with your vendor community.

You don’t have to choose between the speed and convenience of cooperative procurement and achieving your contracting equity goals.

Interested in how CoProcure can help your team save time, reduce costs, and support diverse and local businesses? Get in touch!