Transformation and Simplification

Teresa Mitchell Erman, Director of Marketing

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.

Transformation is never easy.

But when that path is chosen and leads to delivering on your mission, it embodies a sense of purpose that exhilarates and keeps you moving forward through the thickets and the winding paths.

That’s what 2021 has been for the MHEC.

Growing pains.

MHEC is celebrating its 45th year as a not-for-profit Group Purchasing Organization (GPO). This year caps off four and a half decades focused on building a diverse portfolio of publicly bid contracts, representing over 600 suppliers, 25,000 products and services, and 6000 brands. As a not-for-profit GPO, our portfolio gives members an opportunity to have a one-stop shopping resource to meet the broad needs of their organization without having to go to bid. Simple!

But perhaps, not SO simple. An extensive analysis of member needs in 2020, revealed that all that diversity came at a cost—complexity in the searching process.  While our contracts took the burden of sourcing suppliers off the shoulders of our members, finding the product to meet an organization’s need was another story. Put simply (no pun intended), we had too much of a good thing. This feedback led to an intense year of looking at how we could simplify every major touchpoint with our members.


As we looked at root-causes, we discovered that at the heart of it, were complications from the immense growth. Originally chartered in1977 as a purchasing arm for Massachusetts state higher education institutions, our organization had 84 member organizations who paid fees to participate. Then the charter was changed in 2013 and MHEC grew to become a GPO for any not-for-profit organization with an educational component located anywhere in New England. Plus, membership was made free. Great stuff, except our technology solutions no longer fit the needs of our burgeoning membership base in today’s ecommerce marketplace.

As we mapped out our strategy for getting-to-simple, we narrowed our focus to 2 key things:

Website: Our website was redesigned to enable quick and easy access to content and provide individual landing pages for each of our contracts. These pages serve as information hubs for members to find contract updates and news, promotions, supplier features and more. Landing pages by sector (cities and towns, libraries, k-12, and higher education) are in the process of being built. These pages will include state related news for our New England members.

Purchasing platform: We are changing our purchasing experience to be an online marketplace called MHEC’s ibuy marketplaceTM.   

i buy logo

The ibuy marketplaceTM is powered by a leading ecommerce platform that can stand alone and also integrate with an organization’s existing punchouts that are often in place. Now, instead of having to pull the contract, find the contract representative, and call for a quote; buying from our contracts will be a point and click experience to search on products/services, brands, and suppliers. Members will be able to also make comparisons between product choices, styles, and prices similar to current popular online retail sites. This buying tool will save members time, while our contracts save them money. A win-win.

An identity crisis.

As we addressed our member needs through technology solutions, it was also time to rethink what our brand stood for. The existing logo was a tree whose branches represented the Massachusetts state higher education system, a great concept, but no longer a great fit. Our members now also come from libraries, k-12 schools, cities and towns, museums, historical societies, and housing authorities from all over New England. Therefore, our logo needed to symbolize something that was more inclusive, contemporary, and represented the trustworthiness and growth that members could associate with MHEC. This led to our new blue and green logo launched in August of 2021 which represents the forward movement of MHEC to a user-friendly, e-commerce buying experience.

 MHEC logo

Originally named Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium, we go by our initials M.H.E.C. to keep from giving life to the impression that we only serve in Massachusetts and only institutions of higher education.  If it helps to remember, you can think of it as standing for “more help, every contract”. And it would be true. In the market research we conducted in 2020, we learned our number one brand asset was our outstanding service. Our team of strategic sourcing managers have the knowledge, expertise, and dedication to provide the service needed for our member organizations to get the most out of our contracts.

New Hampshire Cities and Towns—MHEC contracts have you covered!TM

We reach out to our members continually to discover the products that they need and if there are suppliers they recommend. Consequently, we are sourcing local, regional, national, and even global suppliers to meet their purchasing needs.

With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting operations, appropriating budgets, and causing supply chain disruptions that increase costs, leveraging the buying power of a not-for-profit consortium is a means to take back some of the fiscal ground municipalities have lost. An examination of member spend found that MHEC members save an average of 35% annually when using our contracts.

One thing


To learn more visit our website at:

For a conversation on how our contracts can meet your needs, contact: Janet Garabedian, MHEC business development manager, t: 508-320-2250, e:

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