Once the poster child for the recent housing bubble and subsequent crash, Miami has today emerged as one of the strongest growth markets in the country — and one of the best representations of urban renewal and sustainable vertical development globally.
Yet as Miami’s international appeal rises and its residential and tourism populations grow, so too does the need for enhanced transportation solutions and widespread infrastructure improvements. Addressing our public infrastructure challenges, including transit, education, water and sewers, will ultimately be the benchmark by which our community is measured. Without these, Miami will be limited in its ability to incentivize corporate relocation, create jobs and, ultimately, sustain our economic prosperity.
Fortunately our local municipalities recognize this need and are taking steps to keep pace with the current rate of growth. Numerous infrastructure projects are under way that are critical to our community and to a more sustainable future.
Roads and sidewalks are undergoing necessary repairs; overtures in public transit will connect some of our most densely populated neighborhoods to our urban core; steps are being taken to overhaul our education system to meet the needs of a growing inner-city community; and our public works systems are being improved to meet current capacity. But as budgets constrict and the list of needs grows, the government’s ability to go it alone becomes more challenging.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, federal, state and local governments must spend $3.6 trillion through 2020 to put the nation’s critical systems in adequate shape. Without higher spending, the group projects the costs of travel delays, power and water outages will reach $1.8 trillion by 2020.
The private sector has the ability, the creativity and the capital to fill this gap — and through the public-private partnership (P3) model, the public sector has created a vehicle by which to access this. What was once a three- to four-year process through public procurement has become an immediate path forward for the private sector to proactively engage government leadership with potential solutions.
While most states still lack comprehensive P3 legislation, Florida — and Miami in particular — has proved to be a leader in this arena. Over two decades ago the state first enacted a statute allowing the use of P3s for the development of transportation facilities, and in June 2013, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill that provides public entities across the state with the tools to complete long-overdue infrastructure projects in a variety of sectors.
This most recent P3 statute delivers guidelines for the use of P3s and has opened the door for the private sector to tackle projects throughout Florida and its various municipalities. Over the coming years, Florida will continue to refine its P3 laws and will likely serve as a model to other states wishing to enact comprehensive P3 legislation.
Last week, more than 2,000 private and public sector leaders from across the country descended on Miami for a two-day conference to discuss our country’s existing infrastructure needs and the future of P3 partnerships to achieve them. As a leader in P3 and a city on the front lines of its implementation, Miami proved to be a fitting forum for identifying the latest opportunities in P3 transportation and the emerging social and water sectors.
We have the ingredients, the leadership and the resolve to effectively address our infrastructure challenges. And by creating the right vehicles for private sector investment, we have more than enough capital to fund them. By working together, Miami can successfully meet the needs of our community today; ensure smart growth for the future; serve as a best practices model for other municipalities; and further secure our place as a world-class city.
Albert E. Dotson Jr. is a partner at Miami-based Bilzin Sumberg. and is serves as its Land Development & Government Relations Practice Group Chair. He is also a member of its Executive Committee.