Keeping citizens and commerce moving – while keeping budgets in balance – are dual challenges facing state and local governments throughout Texas. It’s where the rubber meets the road – both metaphorically and literally.
Until recently, the state government traffic control device contracts were exclusively available to the Texas Department of Transportation. Now it is open to all State of Texas CO-OP members.
“Not having to go out to bid is a lifesaver for us,” says Ericka Nowicki, division manager, Infrastructure Operations for the city of Austin. Not only did the contract save her time, it also saved the city a lot of money.
“We used the contract to purchase prefabricated traffic signs, sheeting for signs and glass beads for pavement-marking retroreflectivity and got savings of 10 percent,” she says.
In October 2010, the state awarded a five-year, $126 million term contract negotiated by the Comptroller’s Strategic Sourcing Division that covers a wide array of traffic control devices. The majority of the contract spend is with TxDOT. However, State of Texas CO-OP members are using the contract, too and collectively have spent more than $3.7 million.
“There has been quite a bit of interest in the traffic control device contract,” says Kishor Muzumdar of the Comptroller’s Strategic Sourcing Division. “It’s proved so popular that we’re adding other items, suggested by the CO-OP members.”
Nowicki worked with Muzumdar to add a variety of traffic sign sheeting colors and sizes. Next, Nowicki plans to use the contract to purchase thousands of raised pavement markers for Austin’s streets, saving 17 percent in the process.
“I’ve been paying 74 cents a piece, and I’ll now be able to get them for 62 cents,” she says. As of the end of May, the city of Austin had purchased nearly $113,000 in traffic control devices using the TxSmartBuy ordering system. TR
The Comptroller’s Strategic Sourcing Division wants to make sure that state and local buyers get good service on purchases made using 20 major contracts it has negotiated for thousands of items ranging from vehicles and road materials to office supplies. Strategic Sourcing staff generally contacts about 200 buyers each month, and receives responses from about 70 to 80 percent of them hearing about State of Texas CO-OP members’ experiences.
“We go back to our customers to find out if the arrangements are working – if there are lessons we can learn to improve future requests for proposal,” says David Bennett of Strategic Sourcing. “When we discover a problem, we’ll take action to correct it. We’ll contact the vendor, or change a description in a contract, if need be.”
Follow-up helps the Comptroller’s office refine its contracts to ensure that state agencies and local governments get the most for their tax dollars. But it also benefits vendors.
“We’re checking on their customers for them,” Bennett says. “If we discover an unhappy customer, the issue is reported immediately to them for resolution. We also have quarterly marketing meetings with the major vendors and share the comments we receive.” TR
What’s Strategic Sourcing?
Strategic Sourcing is how the state of Texas leverages its purchasing power to get the best price possible. It’s essentially applying the same money-saving principles cost-conscious consumers do every day:
- buying in volume, when possible;
- staying on top of market trends and fluctuations that may offer opportunities to negotiate lower prices;
- measuring a product’s true cost (factoring in, for example, fuel efficiency and maintenance costs when considering the purchase of vehicles for the state’s fleet);
- and continually assessing how well the product – and the product’s vendor – is performing.