As an AEPA member, KPN leverages national volume with local awards for best pricing

The Keystone Purchasing Network works with the Association of Educational Purchasing Agencies (AEPA), a network of purchasing cooperatives in 29 separate states. The association’s goal is to leverage national demand among their agencies and distribute a single, national solicitation for bids in order to garner best possible pricing for agencies in their states.

While bids are solicited nationally, KPN follows its state bidding procedures and makes its local awards among responsive and responsible bidders.

A leader and founder of AEPA in 2000, KPN has consistently taken leadership positions and currently serves in the bid chair role. That job includes overseeing the bid process, distributing invitations, developing terms and conditions, coordinating pre-bid meetings, conducting a public opening, and making the first-round of evaluations for bid responsiveness before involving bid chairs and inviting state-specific reviews.

With 29 states participating, AEPA boasts hundreds of years in collective purchasing experience and oversight that no other cooperative can match. Its structure includes two voting members from each state. Together they serve as a working board of directors. Each director-member is involved in specific purchasing task ranging from the writing of specifications to contract oversight.

In addition to joint solicitation of bids, AEPA provides the forum for post-award oversight of vendors to ensure bid compliance and success in all jurisdictions.

The association contracts for an executive director to provide the day-to-day administrative tasks crucial to the association’s success and legal obligations.

The full board meets twice a year, in the spring and the fall. Its usual practice is to conduct one round of bidding each year with logistical work starting in the summer, culminating with award recommendations after Thanksgiving.

After doing the initial round of evaluation, AEPA turns over bid documentation to the respective states for their own review and determination whether awards are warranted under their own respective state laws and procedures.

Currently, APEA members are recording their 22nd round of bidding. Collectively their respective local agencies’ use of contracts exceeds annual purchases of more than $500 million.

By working together, AEPA members have a demonstrable record of achieving better pricing for their local agencies and of reducing the administrative cost of bidding, evaluation, and contract management.

Successful purchasing cooperatives have unique needs. Mark Carollo has specialized in a niche that requires a comprehensive understanding of technology, ecommerce, specifications, bidding, contract management, and social media.  He is the Associate Director of Cooperative Purchasing for CSIU and oversees KPN's regional and national contract initiatives. He is active in the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. In addition, he serves on the board of directors of the Association of Educational Purchasing Agencies, which has now grown to include 29 state cooperative agencies. Mark has been with the CSIU since 1997 after receiving his degree from Bucknell University.

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