Don’t miss the Purchasing Consortium Opportunity!

By Jodi Essex, Iowa PTAC

Do you know what a purchasing consortium is?

If not, you might be missing important contracting opportunities. Many state and local organizations use purchasing consortia to obtain goods and services.

A purchasing consortium – also sometimes referred to as cooperative purchasing, or a “GPO” (Group Purchasing Organization) – is a mechanism by which multiple organizations with similar purchasing needs band together to better leverage their buying power and achieve more favorable terms and pricing from vendors. Such consortia also reduce the workload for their members by eliminating duplication of effort in issuing RFP’s and managing contracts for the same good/service.

Small organizations that cannot support large purchasing offices or do not have a sufficient “spend” (ie: ability to make large purchases) to obtain discounts on their own often take advantage of cooperative purchasing. But, large organizations participate too. For example, the purchasing departments of Big 10 Universities have formed a purchasing consortium called the CICPC (Committee on Institutional Cooperation Purchasing Consortium). Such a consortium determines which goods and services the majority of its members are most likely to need, issues an RFP, and then awards a contract that all members are welcome to use.

Purchasing Consortia benefit vendors, too. An agreement with a purchasing consortium provides exposure to customers that a business might not otherwise reach on its own. This saves time and effort by reducing the need to market to multiple organizations and respond to multiple RFPs. As an added bonus, the consortium advertises awarded contracts to its members and encourages their use.

There are many purchasing consortia around the country, many of which focus on a specific field, such as industrial manufacturing, healthcare, food and grocery, higher education, etc. A simple google search for a particular field, followed by “GPO”, can help you to identify relevant groups. Below are three examples which have a wide geographic reach.

Committee on Institutional Cooperation Purchasing Consortium (CICPC) (Big 10 Universities) –
In this consortium, a different university member takes the lead on each specific RFP, which is then posted on that institution’s purchasing page and linked to the CICPC’s website.

E&I Cooperative Services (Educational & Institutional) –
This constortium’s members include hospitals, laboratories, museums, K-12 schools, community colleges, universities (public and private), non-profits such as the Salvation Army, and more. RFP’s are posted to their website. Vendors interested in bidding must fill out their supplier form at It should be noted that group members while group members are ABLE to purchase off of awarded contracts, they are not required to do so.

Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA)
WSCA is the cooperative purchasing organization for the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASP). Like the CICPC, individual states will take the lead on specific RFPs and will handle the entire procurement on behalf of the other members. Solicitations are posted on their website at

Contact your PTAP representative with questions or to help you determine if your good/service is a good fit for a purchasing consortium.



More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.

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 Jodi Essex Headshot

Jodi Essex has worked in public procurement at Iowa State University for the past 7 years. She has extensive knowledge of the travel and moving industries and has experience procuring a variety of other professional services. Prior to that, she worked in the private sector as a buyer in the travel and event management industry.

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