5 (free) things governments can do to reposition for the future

HUGH EATON | May 27, 2021

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Over the last year, we’ve all witnessed years of digital transformation in a matter of months. A recent survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), sponsored by Microsoft, shows that government respondents were the second-most likely group (after financial services) to report increased investment in digital transformation since the start of the pandemic. As governments around the world continue to look to technology and innovation to respond to the challenges of today, here are five (free) things governments are doing to step-change the way they can achieve their economic, social, and sustainability objectives in the future.

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Eau Claire is a vibrant city with exceptional quality of life and services. It is our mission to assure the common good through services essential for a safe, sustainable, engaged and healthy community. Values: Integrity, Environmental and Fiscal Sustainability, Service Excellence, Transparency, Enjoyment, Fun, Enthusiasm, Vision, Diversity, Collaboration.

OTHER ARTICLES

Squeezing the risk out of government AI projects

Article | April 20, 2020

A new report offers a five-point framework government agencies can use to maximize the benefits of artificial intelligence while minimizing the risks. “Risk Management in the AI Era,” released by the IBM Center for the Business of Government April 16, proposes a risk management framework that can help agencies use AI to best suit their needs. “Public managers must carefully consider both potential positive and negative outcomes, opportunities, and challenges associated with the use of these tools,” the report states, as well as the relative likelihood of positive or negative outcomes.

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Transit, mobility projects to play vital role in economic recovery

Article | July 15, 2020

As the country battles to recover from COVID-19, transit leaders are calling for the next federal relief package to appropriate substantial funding to allow public transit to play its critical part in the economy’s recovery. In the interim, many of these transit and mobility authorities throughout the nation are moving forward with capital improvement projects already in the pipeline and in various phases of development. They will soon be announcing large projects, especially in quickly growing regions, and their planning documents list upcoming initiatives that range from mid-size construction projects to sprawling billion-dollar programs that focus on aging infrastructure. The following are just a few examples of upcoming projects from tollway and mobility authorities. California Just east of San Francisco, the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority in late June approved $46.8 million in funding for the next stage in Valley Link, a 42-mile light-rail line. This project will connect a planned train station in North Lathrop to an existing station in Pleasanton. Another $13 million previously dedicated to the project paid for conceptual design work that is near completion. Also, elsewhere in the state, the Transportation Corridor Agencies, in coordination with Caltrans, is proposing a $180 million project to add a direct 241/91 Express Connector linking the northbound 241 Toll Road to the eastbound 91 Express Lanes and the westbound 91 Express Lanes to the southbound 241 Toll Road. The connector will alleviate traffic and improve access to toll lanes in Orange and Riverside counties. Texas The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has several forthcoming procurements and will be soliciting bids in early August for the third phase of the 183A extension project. This $180 million project will create a 6.6-mile extension of the busy tollway north from Leander to east of Liberty Hill. Construction is expected to begin in early 2021. New Jersey The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has $24 billion in various road and infrastructure projects in its Proposed 2020 Capital Improvement Program released in March 2020. The authority has outlined 24 projects that provide system solutions and upgrades. One of the largest initiatives is a $2.9 billion project to replace approximately 200 bridge decks. Another large undertaking, projected to cost about $1.4 billion, is described as raising a section of Garden State Parkway above a revised 100-year floodplain. Florida Florida’s 2021 budget earmarks $90 million for an ambitious tollway project spanning hundreds of miles. The Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, or M-CORES, plan calls for construction of 340 miles of new toll roads by 2030. M-CORES outlines new road infrastructure for three corridors: the Suncoast Connector from Citrus County to Jefferson County; the Northern Turnpike Connector from the northern terminus of Florida’s Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway; and the Southwest-Central Florida Connector from Collier County to Polk County. Initiated by a state Senate bill in 2019, this is a $10 billion project. Kansas The city of Overland Park and the Kansas Turnpike Authority are conducting a study that could lead to a $300 million project for U.S. 69. City leaders turned to the Turnpike Authority for help with widening the highway which has become the most congested in the state. The collaborative effort would include widening the highway to six lanes, with two of them being tolled. Illinois The Illinois Tollway Authority is closing its bid filing period for a more than $100 million project to reconstruct a section of Interstate 294, and numerous other projects are slated to occur in the next several years. A project to reconstruct the northbound C-D Road has a cost projection of between $25 and $50 million. Another planned project includes demolishing and rebuilding the Southbound Mile Long Bridge with a cost of more than $100 million. Another interesting project outlined involves building ongoing ramps from 75th Street to Interstate 55 which will also cost approximately$100 million. Pennsylvania The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) released a request for information to determine how best to structure procurements to replace and enhance the commission’s tolling Customer Service Center system and customer service operations. A number of contracting opportunities will result from this initiative. The commission is inviting responses from software application development companies with innovative products in the customer relationship management, customer account management, and customer experience spaces. System integrators and/or software developers with expertise in CRM, customer account management, call centers, customer contact systems and CX, and transactional/financial processing and billing systems also are also encouraged to respond. PTC is also interested in input from customer service firms specializing in the design and integration of innovative customer contact systems with new or existing applications. In addition to construction and engineering projects, numerous tollway authorities are moving toward all-electronic toll collections. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission moved from toll collectors to all-electronic this year, and the Bay Area Toll Authority suspended in-person toll collecting in March because of COVID-19. This trend will provide numerous opportunities for IT companies in the near future as transit and mobility authorities search for technology solutions to modernize the driving experience on toll roads. Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

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Public facility corporations provide alternative source of project funding

Article | September 18, 2020

Taxpayers, citizens, and industry leaders may not be totally familiar with Public Facility Corporations (PFCs), but that should change, especially now since public funding for critical projects is at an all-time low. PFCs are becoming somewhat common in many regions of the country. If the legal entity (PFC) is not familiar, here’s a bit of background. A PFC is a nonprofit corporation created by a sponsoring governmental entity — a city, county, school district, housing authority, or special district. PFCs have broad powers over public facilities, including financing, acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, renovation and repair. A PFC, once created, has the authority to issue bonds on behalf of its sponsoring public entity and once the bonds are funded, the money can be used in numerous ways. This type of legal entity has gained attention because public officials with critical projects are being forced to seek alternative funding sources. In Texas, public facility corporations are allowed the broadest possible powers to finance or provide for the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of public facilities at the lowest possible borrowing cost. A sponsor — such as a municipality, county, school district or housing authority — may create one or more of nonprofit public facility corporations. Then, the PFC can issue bonds for the construction of public facilities or finance public facilities or even loan the proceeds of the revenue to other entities for specific purposes. A report that was released by The University of Texas School of Law found that a house bill approved during the 2015 legislative session “expands the authority of public facility corporations and allows the corporation to exercise any power that a nonprofit corporation might exercise and/or grant a leasehold or other possessory interest in a public facility owned by the PFC.” Here’s a bit more background of what is happening in Texas and there are numerous similar examples throughout the country. The El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) several years ago created the EPISD Public Facility Corporation to fund construction of central offices through non-voter approved bonds. The corporation issued more than $29 million in bonds. The plan called for the EPISD to repay the bonds with general fund dollars from the district's general fund. The 2019 Texas Legislative Session ended with a $4 million rider added to the state appropriations budget. The money was provided to the city of Port Aransas to build a $36 million apartment complex for affordable housing. Plans call for the 200-unit complex to be operated by the Port Aransas Public Facility Corporation. The corporation will work in partnership with a private company to develop and manage the property. An investment of approximately $14 million came from the private sector partner, and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs provided an additional $18 million in funding. Site work on the project began in July 2020. Many school districts have created public facility corporations for construction projects for schools, and many municipalities have also used PFCs. The revenue from these types of bonds is sometimes called lease-revenue bonds. They do not require voter approval. Public facility corporations do not have the authority to raise tax rates, but it is possible for a school board to approve a property tax increase to make payments on the bonds sold by a PFC. The city of Tioga, located in the Sherman/Dennison region of Texas, constructed a new high school with funding from a public facility corporation. A collaborative initiative was launched with a lease-purchase agreement which allowed the PFC to hold title to the land and facility until the investment was repaid. At that time, the agreement calls for everything to transfer back to the district. Because the current campus was reaching its maximum capacity, a new high school campus had been a priority for the district and this was the funding mechanism selected. The city of Fate in Rockwell County recently embarked on a public-private partnership to develop an affordable seniors housing community. The projected cost is approximately $30 million. To fund the project, the city created a PFC. Plans are for the city to handle the design, construction, and management of the project in collaboration with the PFC. City leaders will appoint board members to the funding corporation which will then operate the development as a nonprofit. The project is anticipated for completion in January 2022. There are similar types of alternative types of funding options in other parts of the U.S. In Utah, for instance, the Park City Board of Education approved a PFC which will allow the district to secure revenue for a number of master plan projects. The projects have a combined projected cost of $122 million. The school district had considered the funding option of general obligation bonds, which would require voter approval, but elected to create a Local Building Authority (LBA). This funding option will allow them to fund an expansion of a high school facility to accommodate ninth-graders and expand another campus to allow for eighth-grade students. Public officials, legislators, government contractors, and taxpayers all should have an interest in watching PFCs as well as other alternative funding sources. Until traditional public funding becomes more available for critical public projects, there will be a need for various types of funding solutions. Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

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American seaports provide thousands of contracting opportunities

Article | June 26, 2020

We know that an infrastructure bill is coming, and the debate in Congress will likely begin in July. Industry leaders, public officials, think tanks, and economic development organizations have provided lots of input. They know that some of their messages have been heard. There is no consensus between Democrats and Republicans about how the bill will be structured, but one thing appears certain – Congress must deliver an economic recovery bill. Because infrastructure is considered to be the quickest route to economic recovery, it is safe to assume that large amounts of funding will be allocated to infrastructure projects. Depending on how the final infrastructure bill is structured, the funding could come completely from government or it could be delivered from various types of alternative funding sources. And, when an infrastructure bill passes, it will almost certainly include funding for the country’s seaports. That’s because America’s sea and inland ports are essential cogs in the country’s economic recovery. Ports have played an incredibly important role in our short-term emergency response to COVID-19. The delivery of vital commodities and products reached recipients through ports. And, despite very difficult times, a vast majority of ports managed to remain open to cargo operations. Data is always lagging but according to the American Association of Port Authorities, cargo activities at U.S. seaports accounted for 26 percent of the U.S. economy in 2018. A study released by the organization outlines approximately $5.4 trillion in total economic activity and more than $378 billion in federal, state, and local taxes that resulted from economic activity related to ports. The anticipation of large amounts of revenue through an infrastructure bill is encouraging, but the reality is that there’s already a great amount of activity at most seaports. Planning documents have been completed or updated and contracting opportunities are abundant. Additionally, the potential for public-private partnerships is great. Florida The world’s third largest cruise port, Port Everglades, recently received approval from the Broward County Board of County Commissioners for its 20-Year Master/Vision Plan. The county manages the port’s operations, and the plan outlines 50 projects for delivery through 2028. Currently, the projects are projected to cost approximately $3.02 billion. Immediate opportunities include: Terminal 21 redevelopment at a cost of $124 million; the Ro-Ro Yard relocation and expansion for $10 million; upgrades to the Entrance Channel North Wall for $12 million; and other projects estimated at $26 million. California The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners has approved a $1.5 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 that includes a $163.6 million capital improvement plan that provides funding for numerous terminal upgrades. Projects include an allocation of $38.1 million for improvements at the Everport Container Terminal and a $4.8 million project designated for the Pasha Terminal. The port’s waterfront public access projects include work at the San Pedro Public Market estimated at approximately $42.3 million. Smaller projects are set for the Wilmington Waterfront Promenade. Security related projects, whichinclude the development of a Port Cyber Resilience Center, are funded at $7.8 million. This port is considered to be North America’s leading seaport by container volume and cargo value, and it facilitated $276 billion in trade during 2019. Oklahoma The U.S. Department of Transportation in June awarded a $6.1 million grant to the Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority for the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. Funding was obtained from the federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Program. which provides approximately 50 percent of funding for projects such as the port’s rail switching project. Work will include the improvement of an existing 3-mile industrial rail spur. The completed project is estimated to cost $12.1 million. In 2019, the Public Service Company of Oklahoma entrusted the Tulsa Port Authority with future development of the Inola industrial site by granting an historic land transfer of 2,000 acres. In May 2020, a firm was hired to process survey data so that the project could move forward. Ohio A $16 million federal grant was received recently by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. The revenue is designated for a project that will receive an additional $4 million to rebuild and upgrade a mile-long dock wall. The dock-wall reconstruction is expected to take three years to complete and will be done in phases so that port operations can continue unabated. About $6 million of the funding is allocated for construction of a bulk-liquid transfer and storage facility. Currently, the port authority cannot perform liquid cargo movements, but the completion of this project will remedy that as well as allow for multiple sources of commodities. Texas The Port of Houston Authority was recently awarded $79.5 million in federal funding to improve 2,700 linear feet of wharf and upgrade 84 acres of yard space at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal. Total cost of the project is $198.7 million. The upgrades will reduce ship delay by providing additional berthing capacity and will decrease truck turn times, idling, and congestion. The port has several other projects planned including an inspection and repair design of wharves at Turning Basin South. Another upcoming project is for construction at the Bayport Terminal Wharf 6. In the fourth quarter of 2020 construction is scheduled to begin on a new maintenance facility at the Barbours Cut terminal. Washington A study has been approved by the Port of Woodland to evaluate the potential of a railroad-dependent development on recently acquired port land along Kuhnis Road. The study will provide critical engineering information required for funding applications as well as future port investments. Once funding is secured, contracting opportunities will be available. There is no doubt that America’s seaports will continue to generate an abundance of contracting opportunities in the future. but contractors now may find projects of interest at almost every port in the nation. Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

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Spotlight

City of Eau Claire

Eau Claire is a vibrant city with exceptional quality of life and services. It is our mission to assure the common good through services essential for a safe, sustainable, engaged and healthy community. Values: Integrity, Environmental and Fiscal Sustainability, Service Excellence, Transparency, Enjoyment, Fun, Enthusiasm, Vision, Diversity, Collaboration.

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