(Corrects paragraph 13 to say "day" rather than "year")
By Hilary Russ
Sept 24 When New York's Rockland County needed
to buy two new asphalt rollers for highway construction projects
this summer, it saved $38,000 by looking halfway across the
country - in Texas.
Another county there was getting a better deal on rollers
made in Wisconsin. So Rockland piggybacked on the existing
public contract in Texas, saving $19,000 per roller - a 24
percent reduction from the original $79,000 bid it had received.
Rockland, north of New York City and financially distressed
despite its wealthy tax base, found the vendor for the lumbering
yellow machine in a special procurement database, which shares
information on public contract prices among subscribers.
On Tuesday, the biggest city in the United States said it
will also join that database. New York City will follow Florida,
Virginia, Miami, San Diego County, Fort Lauderdale and about
2,200 other cities, states, counties, school districts and
federal agencies who are already using the database's website.
Called SmartProcure, governments share data about the goods
and services they buy, allowing them to get better deals and
broaden their network of vendors.
Since the recession, states and cities have sought to save
money as revenues have remained sluggish and fixed costs, like
pension benefits and healthcare obligations, have swelled.
"Counties, especially in New York, are struggling," said
Paul Brennan, Rockland's director of purchasing. "Any tool that
we can get to help us save money is an important tool to use,
especially when it's at no cost to us."
New York City's "buying power is probably greater than half
the states in the country. It's a very important development to
have all their data in there," Brennan said.
The Big Apple, which has a $70 billion annual budget,
would save more than $100 million annually if it can use the
service to cut procurement costs by just 1 percent, New York
City Comptroller John Liu said in a statement.
The city is on track to spend $11.3 billion this fiscal year
on contracts, up from $6.2 billion in fiscal 2003, Liu's office
"Knowing exactly what prices vendors offer other governments
will help city agencies negotiate the best possible deals for
taxpayers," Liu said.
The service by SmartProcure is free for governments. The
database is supported financially by businesses, who must pay to
There are about 85,000 state, local and federal agencies in
the United States, which spend about $20 billion a day on
procurement altogether, said SmartProcure Chief Executive
Officer Jeffrey D. Rubenstein. The company, based in Deerfield
Beach, Florida, launched in 2011.
"Every city is buying similar items; they're going through
the same process. We knew there had to be a tool to help these
government agencies do what they do," he said.
Rockland, with a population of more than 315,000, has a
credit rating of Baa3 - one notch above junk and lower than all
other New York counties - by Moody's Investors Service.
The county is now using SmartProcure to benchmark pricing
for smaller purchases that aren't subject to competitive
bidding. It's also using the database to get better prices from
"It gives you negotiating power," Brennan said. "It's going
to be a major important tool."
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Tiziana Barghini)