The following is the introduction to my latest work for PSMJ, “AEC Issue Brief: The P3 Revolution”
For several years, government officials and AEC industry practitioners have said that public-private partnerships (P3s) will play a major role in the future of infrastructure development and replacement. Yet, in 2011, the perception remains that the U.S. continues to lag Europe, Asia and other parts of the globe in implementing P3s to address our desperate infrastructure needs.
So where is the “P3 Revolution” that we’ve been told is just around the corner? If it is the solution that many people say it is, what’s taking so long for it to gain traction here?
Perhaps the revolution is quietly underway. Are we finally at the point where the public and private sectors in the U.S. can embrace the P3 movement that is commonplace elsewhere?
According to the National Council of Public-Private Partnerships (NCPPP), P3s are already a routine practice in the U.S. “Public-Private Partnerships have been in use in the United States for over 200 years and thousands are operating today,” the group says. “These contractual arrangements between government entities and private companies for the delivery of services or facilities [are] used for water/wastewater, transportation, urban development, and delivery of social services, to name only a few areas of application. Today, the average American city works with private partners to perform 23 out of 65 basic municipal services.”
Consider also that the current and previous U.S. Secretaries of Transportation voiced strong support for P3s, and that President Obama’s ambitious Infrastructure Bank proposal relies heavily on P3s. As one A/E firm executive put it, P3 is a market “you ignore at your own peril.”
Yet, for many AEC firms, the debate is little more than rhetoric in the distance. For these firms, the explosion of P3 projects has yet to materialize. So as the stimulus money from 2009 wanes, and public and private funds for major projects still hard to come by, a “double-dip” for the industry becomes a frightening possibility.
Do we just need to be more patient? Is this a trend worth pursuing, or yet another flash in the pan for our industry? And if P3s are destined to become as popular in the U.S. as they are elsewhere, what should AEC firms of all sizes, types and locations do about it?
[This publication] analyzes these questions and attempts to provide some insight into them. It provides various definitions and viewpoints of P3s, examines the state of this trend in the U.S., gauges the outlook for P3s going forward, and discusses the kind of risks and opportunities that may exist in P3s for architects, engineers, contractors and other AEC industry professionals. It concludes with some case studies of P3 projects that have been completed or are underway in the United States.
Most importantly, this is an objective, agenda-free analysis of the issue, its role in the U.S. AEC industry, and its potential effect on the thousands of firms in our industry. Its overriding goal is to help you, the reader, to better understand and address the P3 process as it relates to your company and you.