How Public-Private Partnerships Can Lift Disenfranchised Communities

By Dee Brown

President Joe Biden has made improving the nation’s infrastructure  a chief goal of his administration. But beyond Congress someday debating Biden’s proposed $2 trillion plan, public-private partnerships have provided ways for many communities around the country to upgrade their infrastructure and facilities.

Large urban communities have received most of the attention in recent years for the benefits brought when businesses and local governments work together, but many smaller communities also have pressing infrastructure needs, and private involvement can make the difference, says Dee Brown, President and CEO of the P3 Group, Inc., a minority-owned public-private partnership developer (www.the p3 group

“Public-private partnerships offer a unique opportunity to redevelop and revitalize smaller and disenfranchised communities around the country,” Brown says. “When structured properly, they can provide an opportunity for those communities to develop new facilities and infrastructure, which can be a catalyst for community development.”

A public-private partnership is an agreement between a private company and public body that allows for the public sector to transfer certain risks and responsibilities to the private sector. Brown says that among many communities’ infrastructure needs are public safety facilities, healthcare facilities, courthouses, and parks, and the image and business potential of those communities are undermined when those places aren’t upgraded.

“The ability to make needed improvements to infrastructure results in a better quality of life and increased revenues for the public agency,” Brown says.

Brown points out how public-private partnerships can impact three important areas of communities:

  • Mobility. Transportation is one sector where the public-private approach is often used as a way to design, build and finance infrastructure such as roads, bridges, transit systems and toll facilities. “Some states’ budgetary shortfalls have made aging transportation infrastructure a lingering problem,” Brown says. “States that are making headway have turned to innovative approaches such as public-private partnerships. It allows for private sector participation, which is welcome given the rising costs of materials and services.”
  • Facilities. Smaller or disenfranchised communities typically do not have the technical resources and expertise to deliver capital projects efficiently, Brown says, and that’s a reason many of those areas have not constructed new facilities in decades. ”A well-structured partnership shifts risk from the public sector to the private sector,” he says, “while allowing the construction activity to be executed by local contractors, subcontractors and vendors. When the construction dollars stay within a local community, those dollars can turn over six to seven times, creating a significant impact on the bottom line for the community.” 
  • Communication technology. Improved access to broadband has a major impact on the lives of those it reaches, Brown says, increasing business opportunities, job growth, and inclusion of people once cut off from economic growth. “New mobile technology has filled gaps in communities,” he says, “and as broadband requires large capital investments, public-private partnerships are well-positioned to manage complex interfaces while also balancing the financial commitment.”

“Combining the resources and know-how of government and business can profoundly enhance previously underserved communities,” Brown says. “It’s a powerful partnership producing benefits for all.”

Dee Brown

Dee Brown ( is the president and CEO of the P3Group, Inc. His 27-year career includes real estate sales, development, management, and overseeing all phases of multi-million dollar construction, infrastructure, and environmental projects for government and private-sector clients. A recipient of numerous awards as an entrepreneur, Brown is a member of the Forbes Real Estate Council and a speaker on public-private partnerships. He hosts an international podcast, “The Sky’s The Limit: Beyond the Deal” produced by ForbesBooks Radio.

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