Municipal Customer Spotlight: Township of Strong
Nestled deep within the Almaguin Highlands region of Parry Sound District, the Township of Strong is Ontario’s scenic sanctuary comprised of lush greenery, dense forests, and several lakes, including Lake Bernard, said to be the world’s largest freshwater lake without an island. Settled in 1867, Strong is home to a small community with a predominantly rural population of 1,566 and additional seasonal residents. Small but mighty, the Township is committed to providing community services and functional infrastructure to meet the needs of its citizens and visitors and furthering the growth of the town’s economy, population, local businesses, and tourism. The Township of Strong stands by its mission statement of “Working together for a Strong tomorrow,” supported by its strategic plan that encourages the utilization of existing community resources and collaboration with municipal stakeholders and external partners like OECM.
The Township of Strong is currently leveraging OECM’s Office Supplies and Fine Copy Paper, Apparel and Related Products and Services, Electrical Products, and Insurance Broker Services agreements. The Township aims to grow its partnership with OECM by leveraging additional contracts in the coming future. As part of this issue’s Municipal Customer Spotlight, we had the privilege of speaking with Dan Truchon, the Township of Strong’s Treasurer, on the benefits of collaborating with a group purchasing partner and strategic sourcing organization like OECM, as well as the Township’s procurement goals.
OECM: Hi Dan! Thank you so much for giving us your time. What do you believe are the benefits of collaborating with a strategic sourcing partner or a group purchasing organization?
Dan: Hello, thank you for featuring the Township of Strong! The Township strives to ensure cost-effectiveness and procurement efficiency in its purchasing activities. In our choice to be collaborative [as a municipality], we aim to learn from others, assist others in their learning, and, most importantly, achieve greater output than what was previously achieved without collaboration.
In our experience in working with OECM, we have observed that OECM’s value proposition of Savings, Choice, and Service are inherent in several of the negotiated contract arrangements. Most agreements have options to purchase from more than one supplier, and in establishing relationships with those suppliers. OECM has a structure of departments and experts that strives to ensure a proper connection is achieved with clients and suppliers.
OECM: In your experience, what makes a strategic sourcing/purchasing partner successful? Are there any essential components to maintaining a good procurement partnership?
Dan: An ongoing professional relationship is based upon trust, fair pricing, loyalty, and mutual benefit. The purchasing partner should facilitate continuous quality control tests to ensure quality, fair, competitive pricing, and aligned offerings. Using a strategic approach in supplier relationship management is key as the third party (OECM) essentially becomes a partner to the organization and takes the onus of adapting product offerings to unique needs. Communication is key to any relationship and must be maintained over time, so having ease of communication and dealing with concerns promptly is important to us. Finally, using technology and innovation to achieve goals quicker is always an excellent consideration.
OECM: If you had the opportunity to share with other municipalities some of the reasons why the Township of Strong is accessing procurement arrangements through OECM, what would you say?
Dan: There are several reasons why we specifically utilize OECM’s agreements. I believe working with a collaborative sourcing partner or a group purchasing organization, OECM or otherwise, has several advantages. The Township of Strong collaborates with OECM for the following reasons:
- To minimize costs by accessing pricing arrangements that normally don’t exist for municipalities
- The availability of OECM staff to assist with any matter
- A willingness to investigate new procurement opportunities that would assist municipalities in meeting a procurement need
- To be part of a collaborative movement that builds organizational value
- To ensure value and cost-effectiveness are achieved in procurement activities
OECM: Those are all great examples of what we bring to the table. Of course, we’re also interested in hearing about how we can work to better align our business offering with the needs of our customers in the municipal sector. What, in your opinion, are some opportunities for OECM to consider as we move forward?
Dan: The OECM Marketplace has a vast product and service offering, but as a Northeastern municipality, there are several products and services the Township requires that would be great opportunities for OECM’s consideration:
- Contracts for (Public Works) vehicles (4×4 trucks, graders, excavators, dump/plow trucks, mowers, tractors, etc.)
- Contracts for Annual/Recurring (Public Works) Road Tasks such as ditching, culvert replacements, road base lifts, surface treatment applications, supplying of calcium/winter salt/winter sand/A or M gravel/culverts/safety signs/road signs/etc.
- Life, Health, Dental, and Travel Benefits
- HR services (to assess a department for effective operations, offer solutions to enable improvement, change management strategy/development, performance metrics/management system, etc.)
Software options for any of the following:
- Property taxes, Accounting, Payroll, Cemetery Administration (with user-friendly mapping), Health & Safety, Policy development, etc.
OECM: Thank you for these invaluable insights for our teams – as strategic sourcing partners, engaging our customers through deep dives, analysis and research is critical. Does your municipality have specific goals for joint purchasing/collaborative sourcing going forward?
Going forward, in terms of public procurement, the Township wants to maintain accountability, transparency, and a two-way channel of fair, empathetic, and open communication. We want to practice stewardship, serve the public, achieve value, develop systems, and innovate. Strong Township follows a continuous improvement model that allows for calculated risks to be taken, and the outputs of those risks are measured and analyzed. If the results are found unfavourable, we treat it as an opportunity where learning can occur and motivate actionable change in the system, process, people, and organizational structure or culture. The relationship between Strong and OECM is a strategic one where we can each grow and work most effectively with each other over time.