Florida state and local government agencies need to speed up development of public-partnership projects. They are missing out on opportunities to collaborate with private industry on everything from airports to water plants to student housing.
Florida uses public-private arrangements for transportation projects, most notably the $2 billion upgrade of I-595, the $665 million PortMiami tunnel and the I-4 Ultimate project in Central Florida. But that’s just the beginning. Cities, counties and public agencies across the country are planning and building airports, hospitals and streetcar networks.
These projects are attracting investment from some of Wall Street’s biggest names — Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and UBS. Their equity stakes are being combined with public and private loans to pay for projects that would otherwise require governments to borrow heavily.
The benefits of partnerships accrue to more than taxpayers and investors. Florida companies can make money building, operating and maintaining properties they control, not own. Remember that the public will still hold title to I-595 and the port tunnel when those projects are completed.
How do we move forward? Public entities in Florida should start thinking first of private partnerships. Toss out the old model of contract bidding and public financing. Counties and the state should ask the private sector to come to the table with a business plan, capital, financing and the finest managers they can assemble.
Florida businesses should take the initiative by coming to public agencies and saying, “You have a need and we know how to fulfill it. Let’s talk.” Those discussions will lead to innovative solutions to our biggest problems much faster and more efficiently than the way we address them now. And Florida will move to the forefront of public-private partnerships, where it should be.
Al Maloof, managing director,
GJB Consulting LLC, Miami