The Beginning Pilot Project
In 2004, a group of public sector business and civic leaders came together to address the challenges in Northeast Ohio. With 16 counties and more than 850 local governments, costs were spiraling out of control and the local economy could not support an increase in taxes. In partnership with a local community foundation and a group of inner-ring suburbs, a team led a nine-month pilot project to determine whether group purchasing programs and related collaborations could reduce costs and increase efficiency. The pilot project was an overwhelming success and identified savings opportunities of 11 percent on $22 million in annual spending.
Local governments are required to conduct cumbersome procurement processes for the purchase of most products and services. A key finding in the pilot project is that local governments can delegate this procurement process and piggyback on contracts that were properly procured by other governments. NEO|SO was created in October 2005 as a council of governments and 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization. As a government entity, NEO|SO can conduct procurement processes and enter into contracts with suppliers on behalf of its participants.
NEO|SO Northeast Ohio Sourcing Office
Northeast Ohio Sourcing Office (NEO|SO), launched in 2005 with a simple goal: improve the economic condition of local governments and organizations in Northeast Ohio. Between late 2005 and early 2009, NEO|SO tested this approach for streamlining public procurement. NEO|SO launched more than a dozen programs, ranging from information technology services to auto parts, and grew to more than 90 participants across Northeast Ohio. Through the development and management of these programs, NEO|SO learned how to identify ideal spending categories for collaboration, build group purchasing programs that save time and money, develop contracts in full compliance with applicable regulations, and grow program participation amongst public and non-profit organizations.
NEO|SO’s success and growth attracted the attention of public sector entities and suppliers from across the country. NEO|SO began partnering with associations to provide a fully-managed group purchasing program for those association’s members, thereby aggregating the buying power of hundreds of organizations in multiple states.
Sourcing Office decided in late 2012, that they wanted to transition out of the group purchasing/outsourced shared services portion of its business to focus specifically on public sector capacity building. Sourcing Office is committed to ensuring that the group purchasing/outsourced shared services business continues to be available to its members and association partners, and so is transitioning these activities to a newly created council of governments called The Cooperative Council of Governments (CCOG).
Under this new arrangement, CCOG will assume all of Sourcing Office’s responsibilities in the group purchasing/outsourced shared services space. There will be no impact to Sourcing Office members, association partners, or suppliers, who will continue working with the same team of people on a day-to-day basis. In addition, this transition is providing us with the opportunity to greatly expand the portfolio of contracts, resources, and tools that we make available to the members and associations. We will also be rebranding our activities under the moniker of Sourcing Alliance in the first quarter of 2014. Bottom line, there are numerous positive changes underway, and we see this evolution as a significant opportunity to provide additional value to our members, association partners, and supplier partners.