County Holds Online Auctions

Michigan Radio recently ran an interesting story about a county in Michigan that is using an online auction to buy supplies. Taking bids for
government supplies is nothing new, but the technology involved here allows the county to get supplies from a much broader group of potential sellers than might otherwise be involved.

Here’s the scoop from an article by Lindsey Smith:

When Kent County needs office supplies, like printer paper, it opens an auction online. It lists a maximum price it’s willing to pay based on previous bills. Vendors offer to sell the county printer paper at that price or lower.

The auction runs in real time so businesses can name a lower price if they’re outbid. The auction may last an hour or so but if there are last minute bids the time will extend. After ten minutes go by with no new offers, the lowest bid gets the county’s business.

“It’s so simple but I mean getting to where we got it took like 3 and a half years to build the foundation,” Kent County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio said. The program has saved Kent County more than $200,000 in 2 years. The county has used it to buy office supplies, paper towels, soap for the county jail, even a car.

Only about an hour seems like a pretty efficient system. That it took 3 years to develop may suggest the county needs a better method for developing new technologies. But they said they were trying to avoid the cost of paying a larger corporation for the service. Thankfully, the county is now hosting auctions for other cities for free. Here’s a link to the auction website.

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