Making Government Work

How a Childhood Skill Can Help Local Governments Save Money

August 20, 2014
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How a Childhood Skill Can Help Local Governments Save Money
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Sharing via MuniRent can help school districts and public works departments reduce their spending.

During this rise of successful startups like AirBnB and Uber, government agencies have become a barrier rather than a boon to the share economy.

But in an attempt to make peer-to-peer sharing more attractive to government officials, a Michigan-based startup is enlisting local municipalities to explore the concept for themselves. MuniRent, created by developer and entrepreneur Alan Mond, enables towns to rent equipment from one another at reduced rates. School districts, road commissions and counties are among some of the targeted groups encouraged to rent anything from tractors to textbooks.

“Our vision is to be the hub for collaborative government,” Mond told Fast Company.

MuniRent is aiming to coordinate the gap between large and small municipalities, according to MLive.com. Larger organizations buy equipment they may not regularly use while smaller operations may rent tools that sometimes can be costly. Since they’re government organizations, they’re not in competition with each other, Mond explains, which is why a share economy makes sense when it comes to towns.

“If you have two construction companies, one of them may not want to rent a crane to the other one. Governments are all trying to do sewer maintenance on reduced budgets. They’re not competing. They just happen to be in different jurisdictions,” Mond said.

The online platform lets users reserve equipment for a period of time, pay a fee — of which includes 20 percent rental cost for MuniRent — and coordinate a pickup and return date. Mond estimates municipalities within a 30-mile proximity can share.

MuniRent is one of five startups recently accepted to Code for America’s new civic technology accelerator. The incubator provided MuniRent with $25,000 to get started and mentors, as well as Code for America’s government resources.

While Mond is getting MuniRent off the ground in Michigan (two cities have already signed on), he expects to expand the program nationwide — perhaps soon in Oregon.

“The Oregon Department of Transportation has had me out and they want to use MuniRent to better organize their system,” Mond said. “As it stands, their catalogue doesn’t work in a way that is useful or efficient, and a lot of municipalities have trouble booking equipment.”

With dwindling funds and shrinking budgets, it’s important to see inter-municipal tools like MuniRent provide an innovative solution to government efficiency.

MORE: The 7 Smartest Uses of Technology in Government Today

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