Atlanta mayor to head up new P3 task force

BY SourceMedia | MUNICIPAL | 06/28/22 01:04 PM EDT By Caitlin Devitt

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, recently tapped to head up the U.S. Conference of Mayors' newly created public-private partnership task force, thinks now is the perfect time for cities to consider P3s for their infrastructure projects.

?The Biden administration is really doing a lot for cities right now,? Dickens said. The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will give 60,000 local governments direct access to federal transportation funds, many for the first time.

?Cities are going to be doing some great projects,? Dickens said. ?P3s, when they work well, are better, faster and cheaper in delivery of projects, and now is a great time for us to accelerate the consideration and then maybe the implementation of P3s.?

The USCM launched the P3 task force in June at its 90th annual meeting. The task force, which has no formal membership and can be attended by any mayor, is aimed at becoming a hub to discuss opportunities, challenges and best practices for P3s.

In addition to federal funds, the IIJA enacts several provisions aimed at boosting the U.S. P3 market, including grant money to local governments considering the option.

A long-time Atlanta council member who took office in January, Dickens said some cities may be unprepared for the influx of federal funds, which will be released in large tranches over the next five years.

?There?s a mismatch of capacities and timing,? he said. Cities set to receive double or even triple the amount of infrastructure funds they?re used to would need to dramatically boost hiring of procurement officers, engineers, and compliance officers, among others, he said.

?Whereas you can say, I?ve got three times [as much money] and now I?m going to do 30% in-house and 70% out of house by contracting with P3s.?

In early June, Atlanta voters approved up to $400 million of general obligation bond issuance and renewed a sales tax that?s projected to generate another $300 million over five years for transportation projects.

To help decide how to dole out the money, Dickens said he brought on a deputy COO who's an infrastructure and P3 expert. The city will float RFPs for the projects, some of which will structured as P3s, he said.

?That $750 million is on top of what we?re getting with the infrastructure bill, so we?re talking about a lot of money,? he said.

Companies and advisors will be invited to be part of the USCM P3 task force, and Dickens said that some attended the first meeting this month, which he called the ?101 session.? Among the questions posed at that first meeting is, "Who asks who to dance first?" he said. The answer, Dickens said, "depends on who needs a dance partner and who wants to dance."

Texas-based Hunt Companies Inc. is one of the private entities that has joined the task force, the USCM said in a press release.

?The collaboration of this group will help advise and educate mayors and public sector leaders on this type of progressive delivery, and we look forward to bringing our expertise to the table," Rodney Moss, senior vice president of P3s for Hunt, said in a statement.

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