Promise Zone Organizations Learn About Discount Property

By Emily Donovan
Posted August 18, 2014

Officials from the General Services Administration (GSA) hosted an information session for organizations in the Promise Zone on August 6th, 2014. This session, held at The Enterprise Center, attracted nearly 50 attendees and gave information to organizations in the Promise Zone about obtaining discounted government surplus property.

The event opened with CEO’s Marc Spearman, who grew up in the Promise Zone, providing an overview of the Promise Zone. The Promise Zone initiative is a federal initiative focusing on areas with deep, persistent poverty. The goal of the designation is to create opportunity for the Promise Zone residents so that the neighborhood in which one grows up does not determine his or her destiny. Philadelphia is one of the first five cities to be named a Promise Zone, and fifteen more Promise Zones are expected to be named next year.

More information about the Philadelphia Promise Zone can be found here. Though no funding is attached to the designation, Promise Zones receive preference in federal funding application processes. The information session provided one additional way for organizations to receive financial benefits to better serve Promise Zone residents.

Following Spearman’s introduction, Mike Starr of the Department of General Services shared information about the process for obtaining government surplus property. He explained that government property is determined to be surplus property by GSA when it is no longer needed by the federal or state government. It is then sold at a discounted price to eligible organizations. Government surplus property can come in a number of forms – “anywhere in between paperclips and helicopters,” Starr stated. A few examples include heavy equipment, technology, office supplies, building materials, kitchen equipment, and clothing. The diversity of property allows many organizations and services to benefit from this program. Because the property is heavily discounted, purchasing surplus property helps organizations use their dollars more wisely and serve the community better – a clear advantage to organizations serving Promise Zone residents.

Eligible to receive discounted property are “most nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations that serve the public good in areas of health or education, government agencies, and political subdivisions.” In order to obtain surplus equipment, organizations must fill out a free application. Eligibility is renewed every three years.

Starr discussed the many methods for organizations to seek surplus property. Because the property is donated to the program when the government no longer has use for it, the surplus inventory changes daily. State inventory is located at the state distribution center in Harrisburg, though special sales are occasionally held throughout the state or through online auctions. Items located at federal facilities are posted online and can be directly allocated to organizations. Organizations may also sign up for e-blasts to become aware of what property is available. If there is a specific item that an organization is seeking, a wants list request form may be filled out online and GSA will seek the requests for one year.

Discounted government surplus property can immensely benefit Promise Zone organizations and the residents they serve. The information shared at last week’s session can be found in this presentation. If you are a Promise Zone organization interested in applying for discounted government surplus property, you may find the application here. For more information, you may visit the surplus webpage or contact Mary Beth Stringent, Director of General Services, at

For more information on how you can be involved in the Promise Zone or to find out about upcoming trainings, please contact the Promise Zone at

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