Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: email@example.com
Three years ago, 15 Western states, frustrated by the steep prices they were paying for computer equipment, put together the Western States Contracting Alliance. The cooperative program leverages purchasing volume to try to get discounts from such manufacturers as Dell, HP, Gateway and IBM.
How has the cooperative venture been doing? Terry Davenport, the administrator for WSCA's computer contract, makes these points about it: --There's cash in cooperation: The localities in the 38 states that now shop off the WSCA contract have saved $2.6 billion during the past three years. --Discounts range from 5 to 25 percent: The discount varies, depending on the jurisdiction. New Mexico has experienced price drops of as much as 25 percent, which is not uncommon for smaller states and localities. For bigger states that now buy off the contract, such as California or Georgia, the discounts had to be deep before they could benefit. As large entities, they were already getting big markdowns. --There are less-obvious benefits: Companies drop prices for WSCA because of administrative savings. They don't have to compete for RFPs all the time. In some cases, WSCA replaces hundreds of contracts a company has to administer. --Products and prices are available online: The companies maintain and update their Internet pages, an administrative bonanza for participating localities. --Computers are only the beginning: WSCA also offers contracts for national wireless services and products, industrial tools and data communications equipment, such as routers, switches and networking equipment.