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Key Factors in Selecting a Purchasing Cooperative

By Kathryn Kretschmer-Weyland
January 14, 2013

U.S. Communities is a nonprofit government purchasing cooperative that reduces the cost of goods and services for participating public agencies by aggregating their purchasing power nationwide. It is the only cooperative purchasing program co-founded and sponsored by The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the National Institute of Government Purchasing, and the Association of School Business Officials.†The cooperative is non-exclusive, allowing cities to exercise due diligence in selecting the best individual contracts for their needs.

Since its inception in 1996, U.S. Communities has saved cities and other public entities hundreds of millions of dollars. U.S. Communities combines the purchasing power of over 55,000 public agencies. The Conference of Mayors has continued to partner with U.S. Communities because it is the gold standard for public procurement. The advisory board of cities, counties, and schools provides additional oversight.

Over time, the market has grown to include many other cooperatives. When it comes time for cities to consider a cooperative purchasing contract, prudence must be exercised when looking at the structure of the cooperative. U.S. Communities has provided cities with a list of questions to ensure that the best cooperative purchasing processes, methods, and structure to provide the best value and protection for mayors and cities.

    1 Was the soliciting entity an independent lead public agency that meets the standard definition of a political subdivision (county, city, school district, state, public higher education or special district)

    2 Was the development of the solicitation, evaluation of the responses and award determination all performed by public employees of a political subdivision that is separate from and independent of the cooperative organization?

    3 Did a National Evaluation Team comprised of public procurement professionals from multiple political subdivisions participate in the creation, evaluation and award process?

    4 Was the procurement process substantially similar to the process your agency is required to use?

    5 Does the cooperative organization have independent and broad oversight of the program and its operations?

    6 Does the cooperative organization conduct independent third-party supplier audits to ensure contract compliance?

    7 Does the cooperative organization have adequate staff relative to the number of awarded suppliers?

    8 Does the cooperative organizationís staff conduct quarterly performance reviews with supplier executives and Lead Public Agency to evaluate performance and compliance?

    9 Does the cooperative organizationís agreement contain terms and conditions that require the supplier to provide their best government pricing to your agency?

    10 Does the cooperative organization have field personnel focused on educating public agencies on the benefits of cooperative purchasing program and resolving problems or concerns?

Keeping these ten items in mind as your city makes decisions about cooperative purchasing will help to ensure your city saves the most money under a transparent, competitive contract.

To learn more about U.S. Communities and other purchasing best practices, contact Jeannie Fanning with the Conference of Mayors at 240-393-9672 or send e-mail to