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Public-Private Partnerships: Begin, Progress, Succeed, Repeat

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Candi Choi
April 15, 2019

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”

Increasing populations, economic development and modern technology place certain demands on municipalities. To which the government responds with re-designing, updating and modifying. Enhancing sustainability, livability and modernization are at the forefront of those responses. Constant among them is revenue and cost-effectiveness. How are localities going to do what they need to do in order to get to where they need to go? The answer is rarely simple, as every locality yields its own constraints. But, public-private partnerships are certainly in the solution. A few examples are captured below, so get those thinking caps ready. 

Some localities are focusing on designing new mobility of transportation and recreation. In Jacksonville, Florida, the City Council recently approved the plan for the Emerald Trail project. Also called the Emerald Necklace, the trail is a collaborative public-private project between local grants, foundations, private donors and local capital funds. The Necklace string will surround the city’s urban center, connecting almost 15 historic neighborhoods to the downtown area, greenway trails, riverfronts and recreational activities. It will also incorporate accessibility to schools, colleges, restaurants and retail. It will be the impetus for the city’s economic development, social public space activities, safety and community revitalization. Ultimately, this will change the dynamic of a sprawling beltway community to a vibrant, interactive and neighborly atmosphere for pedestrians and bikers alike.

Updating policies and preserving historical infrastructure helps to ensure well-run services and sustainable revenue. For the first time in 70 years, the City of Chicago, Illinois is proposing a comprehensive update to its building code. The updates focus on incorporating the newest industry standards to the city’s current policy regarding fire and health safety guidelines and streamlining construction and development projects with distinguishable variables. The proposal also provides flexibility for historic preservation, renewal and re-use of vacant buildings while promoting the use of sustainable construction materials.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa approved plans to renovate two city-center historic buildings. In partnership with local historians, Guaranty Bank building and World Theater will be restored and redeveloped into restaurant and hotel space. The buildings have provided stately curbside appeal to the city for over 100 years. The preservation project will rebuild the City’s third street cornerstone. Funding will be pulled from state brownfield tax-credits and other local revenue sources. The sites will contribute to lodging the gap in Cedar Rapid’s hospitality and event centric business services. Currently, the downtown area has just one hotel. Re-purposing existing infrastructure helps construct local character and build upon the city’s loyal heritage.    

Several localities share in repudiation after the declining recycling market. Arising primarily from stricter Chinese government regulations on contaminated waste, a ban has impacted landfill waste around the world. Fortunately, proactive public-private partnerships permit resources in place.

Last year, a partnership with a local organic waste recycling company broke ground on an Advanced Composting Facility in Prince William County, Virginia. The County’s solid waste management will “divert” approximately 30 percent of landfill waste to the site for re-use. The garbage, otherwise considered, consists of yard and food waste. It consists of a major portion of the food waste from local restaurants, grocery stores and schools. The private company will use heavy technological machinery to recycle 80,000 tons of yearly waste into compost material for industrial, farming and household maintenance. The County Landfill also has a partnership with a donation drop center, where household items, like furniture, are donated instead of dumped. Partnerships such as the above mentioned are a low-cost way to help extend the life of public services and facilities a soaring return.

Public-private partnerships can take many forms. Listed here are only a few. A well thought-out idea can create wonders for local resources. Partnerships require coming together and objectively identifying weaknesses before arriving at rational solutions. Even at the turn of the 20th Century, Henry Ford understood that working successfully involves more than just one party. In whatever place of success the locality arrives, there will always be more working together to do.


Author: Candi Choi holds an MPA with specialization in local government management. She has experience with local budgeting, planning and constituent affairs. Her contact email is [email protected]

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