Towndata bids for auction market
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 16, 2001
A longtime publisher of municipal reference guides has ventured into the
online auction marketplace for goods and services that fall below the public
So far, Towndata.com Network Inc., Neptune, N.J., is providing only New
Jersey municipalities with the free Web-based service, which it launched
in January. But it plans to expand the service to Pennsylvania, New York
and Delaware this summer and eventually nationwide, said Keith Haurie, vice
president of sales and marketing.
In New Jersey, annual purchases of goods and services of more than $17,500
require a sealed-bid process, in which a government requests sealed price
quotes from vendors for a product or service, Haurie said. For total purchases
of less than $17,500 yearly for particular goods and services, municipal
officials usually call around for a good price, which is inefficient and
could be costly, Haurie said.
After registering on the site, municipalities, school districts or law enforcement
agencies can post their requests for quotations online. Towndata automatically
sends e-mail messages to registered vendors matching the buyer's requirements.
In a reverse-auction process, vendors competitively, and anonymously, bid
for the contract over a three- to five-day period, which a municipality
can view in real time.
The successful bidder pays Towndata a commission, ranging from $10 to $150,
based on the awarded price. Vendors also must pay a non-refundable $150
set-up fee when they first register. A buyer and vendor then finalize the
deal off-line. Haurie said the process saves government agencies money and
time through competitive bidding.
More than 80 categories, ranging from computers to uniforms, are offered
on the site, which has about 130 registered vendors. Haurie said the company
is running about five auctions a day. The site also will offer news links
about municipalities, a chat room and job openings at municipalities, all
Despite the failure of several e-government and online auction companies,
including govWorks Inc. and eCitydeals, Haurie said Towndata is well-positioned
because of its reputation in the government arena through its Municipal
Reference Guides, published in 13 states and Washington, D.C. He said the
failed companies expanded too fast, too soon, but Towndata is selling its
product through grass-roots marketing.