Michael Marasco, the CEO of Plenary Concessions and the director of the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships (CCPPP) was the moderator for the "U.S. P3s through a municipal lens" session at the CCPPP conference, held Nov. 14 in Toronto.
The panelists were Ed Marquez the deputy mayor of Miami Dade County, Dianne Barrett, the chief projects office for the City and County of Denver, and Seth W. Miller Gabriel, the director of the Office of Public-Private Partnerships for the District of Columbia.
Marasco said that Canada and the U.S. have major differences, and that companies won't succeed if they try to do business by just repurposing Canadian P3 models in the U.S.
Marquez said Miami Dade County has a GDP of $128 billion and its budget is $7.1 billion, larger than some states. Many people, Marquez said, are not educated as to how P3 models work, and he said the county wanted to "do things right" and consulted with local stakeholders.
He said the country does internal screening of projects, to see if their board will sign off, and then more to the Request for Proposals (RFP) stage. Once short-listing three or four proposals, the county works on finalizing a Request for Quotation (RFQ). The final step is contracting, with a complete set of documents brought to the board.
"We're at the beginning phase for this, and it's through venues like this conference that we'll learn" Marquez said.
Gabriel said the district has of yet no formal projects, but D.C. is making moves towards P3, including establishing a D.C. office, which was launched in November 2015. The mandate is to find those infrastructure projects in all sectors with the greatest possible public benefit.
There are currently 12 social infrastructure projects in the works, which Gabriel said wasn't bad for such a small population base.
Barettt highlighted the Denver Union Station project as a P3 endeavor. The station changes 20 acres of downtown real estate intended t integrate the site with surrounding neighbourhoods, create an economically sound asset, contribute to the financing certainty of the transportation infrastructure, and enhance the site as a multimodal transportation hub.
The reason this project has been the impetus for more P3 projects in the area is that it has jumpstarted over $3 billion in development just in the surrounding area, which had previously been economically depressed. 13 new businesses relocated to the area and developers have completed 25 construction projects in the area.
The Denver Eagle P3 project is another transit hub, and is the first transit P3 project of its magnitude in the U.S. It opened in April 2016, and "has had some technical glitches but will work out in the end," she said.
Barrett said the Great Hall of Denver's airport was a P3 project. That area of the airport was taken over by the TSA after 9/11, and it is the opinion of the TSA that as it stands the hall is not as secure as it could be, with a "fishbowl" effect when security facilities are located on the ground floor. Security apparatus are being moved into a more optimal area.
Marasco said the concept of unsolicited proposals is a foreign one to Canadians, and that it would perhaps be to our benefit to consider it.
Gabriel said the education and engagement when introducing P3s "begins at home," and that when meeting stakeholders it can sometimes be difficult to explain P3 concepts to those who aren't familiar with them. Barrett said Denver is looking at forming a P3 office, and that they want at every step of the way to ensure they have public support. Marquez said educating stakeholders is their single biggest obstacle, but the second biggest is educating themselves. The U.S., he said, doesn't have the working groups and P3 associations that Canada has formed.
Marasco asked how Trump would impact P3 development, and Marquez said the president-elect is in favor of infrastructure development, so hopefully "things will move forward." Gabriel said "I guess we'll see in the coming months."