It first started when two states decided to buy salt for winter roads together to save money. That cooperation between Minnesota and Wisconsin, triggered by a slowing economy and increasing budgetary pressures, has led to a much broader initiative—one where the two states are teaming up on several fronts to combine purchasing power and save money .
Now that’s benefitting from economies of scale.
Plans include the states collaborating on everything from shipping contracts for small packages to oversize truck permitting and from buying milk to sharing information technology information to streamline tax collection.
“This is a pretty tough economic situation that the entire country is facing,” said Carla Vigue, spokeswoman for Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. “(The governors) just decided that maybe there were some ways that the states could work together.”
The idea of teaming up to save money is the subject of a webinar July 29, 1-2:30 p.m. Eastern time. The free webinar features representatives from both states and is hosted by The Council of State Governments and the National Governors Association.
Basically, the collaboration is not just to combine purchasing power to save some cash, but because the two states are so similar and have similar needs, both states can save by combining efforts. So if one state is already doing something, there’s a way both states can split those costs rather than duplicating the initiatives, Vigue said.
One example of an initiative ramping up this summer is providing milk and other dairy products to the department of corrections in both states. In Wisconsin, a special farm is dedicated to providing all the milk for the state’s prisons. If Minnesota buys milk from that farm, the state could save money.
According to a Wisconsin press release, an expansion of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections dairy farm would allow Minnesota to buy dairy products from the farm and save as much as $250,000.
“They benefit with decreased cost of milk,” said John Dipko, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. An increase in the customer base could also yield $250,000 to $350,000 for Wisconsin, according to Dipko.
Wisconsin is currently expanding the dairy farm’s herd to provide more milk, Dipko said, and officials hope to begin the partnership for the dairy farm next June.
The two states are also discussing ideas this summer on how to combine and save on food and procurement consolidation for the Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of corrections, according to Dipko. That could amount to a partnership for purchasing items such as packaged foods, toiletries, cards and stamps for the states’ inmates, according to Dipko.