A panel of experts came together at the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships conference on Nov. 15 in downtown Toronto to discuss ways to foster P3 projects in the Great Lakes region.
Dale Bonner, the executive chairman of Plenary Concessions, George Theodoropolous, the managing director – infrastructure for Fengate Capital, Riccardo Cosentino, the vice president of investment development at SNC-Lavalin and Bryan Kendro, the vice president of development for Star America Infrastructure all contributed their thoughts as to the key ingredients to encourage P3. Todd Latham, the founder and president of Actual Media Inc., acted as the moderator.
Cosentino said the key ingredient for more P3 activity is using the lessons learned in the infrastructure space and applying them to the Great Lakes region, which already has some experience with P3 projects. Take what's successful and apply it, he said.
Clarke added that doing so requires a little "patience and handholding," and that each U.S. state wants to do things its own way, with little likelihood of a federal agency for P3 projects.
Clarke said the two key ingredients are the authority to market the deal properly, and don't be afraid to leverage areas that have had success already and follow their lead. "Don't reinvent the wheel," he said.
Bonner said in the Great Lakes, there is antiquated infrastructure and they are facing rapid population growth. Some of the plans set in place today were initiated when there were different growth patterns and economic needs, and regions like Great Lakes and others have to assess their current needs and define themselves. Second to that, it is important to secure public and political commitment to invest.
Clarke said that airports are on his P3 radar, and pointed out that P3 isn't privatization, it's the addition of a private partner. Cosentino said the P3 model has proved useful at dealing with P3 infrastructure, and also supported asset recycling.
Bonner said in places like Australia, asset recycling is a national conversation, but he argued it's important not to "go too far, too fast." It takes the public years to understand the concept of P3, and it takes time to explain how the model works and how it doesn't. "If you go too far outside a room of experts, the decision making process can be overwhelmed and it might have a chilling effect on the market we're trying to create."
There are eight states and two provinces bordering the Great Lakes, and Bonner said it would be helpful within that to focus on individual projects rather than regional trends. Focus on the successful delivery of those projects that have been procured, in order to further momentum.
Kendro agreed, saying that a successful project will help move things forward, and Cosentino said a key is to ensure political success around a project. "Once politicians approve a project, the debate should be done," he said.
Clarke said one of his responsibilities is tracking the U.S. P3 market, and he's realized the best thing to do is find the advocate for the P3 model locally who has some influence.
Bonner said it's important to acknowledge that unlike Canada where there are clear provincial and federal mandates for projects, in the U.S. you have advocates and there isn't any ready-made platform for influencers in the region to come together and exchange ideas.
There is a need, he said, for a platform so advocates can come forward and push for the P3 model.