A merger of two member-owned cooperatives of independent blood centers across the country has created the nation’s largest blood supply network, even bigger than the American Red Cross.

The merger announced Tuesday combines GSABC Cooperative Corp., based in Bloomington, and Blood Centers of America, based in Providence, R.I. The two organizations distribute 5.4 million blood units each year, compared with 4.9 million units handled by Red Cross.

The combined cooperative will represent nearly 100 organizations that collect and distribute blood, plasma, tissue and other biological products as well as conducting blood and viral tests and other services.

“By combining the memberships, resources and experience of BCA and GSABC, we are now positioned as a leader in national blood supply contracting, serving both national and regional health care systems and life science organizations,” said Bill Block, president and CEO of BCA.

Blood collection and distribution is shaped by forces that are different from the zero-sum competition of many industries. For instance, the Twin Cities’ Memorial Blood Center is a member of BCA and has been associated with GSABC. In times of disaster, all the supply networks work together to ensure that blood and tissue reach hospitals and patients.

The merger of BCA and GSABC had been floated in discussions for several years but picked up steam last year. The new organization will retain the Blood Centers of America name and headquarters, Block said in an interview.

The combined organization, which will provide group purchasing, contracting and other cooperative services to an expanded network of dozens of independent area blood centers nationwide, will total about 25 employees.

While Block said the merger will eliminate redundancies and streamline operations, no one is expected to lose their job or be forced to relocate. Jennifer Ficenec, chief operating officer of GSABC, said she will retain her job but work from home after the Bloomington office is shut down.

“This is absolutely the right thing for the industry,” she said of the newly combined cooperative.

“We welcome GSABC staff and members into BCA and we’re confident that, with our combined strength and synergies, we will be better positioned for growth and stability in a dynamically changing health care industry,” Block said.