Tips and To-Dos for Selling to the State of Minnesota
For social enterprises to be successful, they need people and organizations to purchase their products and services. One of the main reasons our chapter exists is to help our members increase sales, so that they in turn can further their social mission.
Our November member event Buying Power for Good: State Government Procurement 101 for Social Enterprises featured a presentation from both the seller’s and the buyer’s perspective:
Government procurement officer
Duane Kroll – Acquisitions Management Specialist with the State of Minnesota’s Materials Management Division
Social Enterprise vendor
Programming & Events Committee co-chair Jenny Kramm kicked off the event with an introduction of the speakers.
Duane then presented information on how to connect with the State of Minnesota and its procurement process. He offered specific details about the state’s procurement process, how to sign up to be a vendor with the state, and how to apply for specific projects with the state.
Greg shared Innovative Packing Solutions’ experiences bidding for state contracts and managing corporate buying relationships.
After the session, attendees enjoyed a networking happy hour, which included SEA-TC member table displays and product samples. It was great to see the array of products and services we all have to offer! We hope everyone will continue to look for opportunities to buy from fellow SEA – Twin Cities members.
State Procurement Overview
The State of Minnesota purchases approximately $1.8 billion in goods and services through contracts each year. Contracting categories include a wide range of goods, non-professional/technical services, professional/technical services, and construction.
Two methods of solicited procurement exist: Request for Bid (RFB; non-negotiable contract goes to the lowest responsible bidder) or Request for Proposal (RFP; negotiable contract awarded to vendor with lowest price and that meets additional criteria). The state’s goal in both methods is to get the best price from the best contractor. You can view contract solicitation announcements here.
Duane recommended that organizations go to the State’s site in advance to register as a vendor. In the event that you would like to submit a bid or proposal in response to a contract solicitation, your organization will already be registered and ready to move swiftly – avoiding the possibility of being delayed from submitting a bid on time because of technological glitches. The turnaround time on RFPs and RFBs is often short, so the more prepared you are, the better!
The Department of Administration delegates authority to individuals in state agencies for some types of purchases under $10,000; for other categories, the threshold is $25,000. In the case of a small contract below the threshold, an agency could give your organization a contract without going through an RFB or RFP process. In this scenario, your organization could benefit from having pre-existing relationships with procurement officers within certain state agencies.
Requirements for State Procurement Preferences
CPV membership does not include preferential treatment in the state procurement process. To get a preference through the Small Business Procurement Program, your organization must become certified as a Targeted Group Business, Economically Disadvantaged Business, or Veteran Owned Business. You can find more information on the Small Business Procurement Program here. Social enterprises that are nonprofit corporations are not legally “owned” by anyone and thus are not eligible for these preferences. There has been some discussion within the social enterprise community about trying to add a social enterprise preference, but no action has been taken to date.
Additionally, MN WORKS is a program by which the state makes a proactive effort to purchase the following services from DEED certified vendors: Janitorial Services, Document Imaging Services, Document Shredding Services and Mailing, Collating, and Sorting Services. You can find more information on the MN WORKS program here.
Minnesota’s Cooperative Purchasing Venture Program
One point the group touched on with Duane was the state’s Cooperative Purchasing Venture (CPV) program. If your organization becomes a CPV member, you can gain access to all current state contracts. This allows your organization to get favorable prices on goods and services, at the same rate as the state secures through its own contract. You can find the CPV application here.
Nonprofit social enterprises are eligible for CPV membership under the following conditions:
1) Your organization is a charitable organization that currently has a grant or contract from the State;
2) Your organization is a Combined Charitable Organization; or
3) Your organization is a rehab facility or extended employment provider certified or licensed by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) through the MN WORKS program (referenced above).
Should your organization bid on and receive a contract from the state, it is always a good idea to market your contract to other CPV members. In cases where your organization would like to contract with a city, county, school district, or other government entity that is not a current CPV member, share the CPV application with that entity, so it can take advantage of your organization’s contract.