It is no secret that many public sector organizations are facing challenging financial issues and looking for ways to augment their budgets. Public-private partnerships are one solution that is now being used in a wide range of public agency projects to lessen financial constraints and enhance shared resources.
According to The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships, these joint ventures consist of a contractual agreement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity. Through this contract, the skills and assets of each sector (private and public) are shared in delivering a service or facility for use by the general public.
Projects at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in the past, as well as in recent years, provide prime examples of this public-private partnership trend. These incentives include: The High Country Conference Center, Drury Inn and Suites, TGen North (Translational Genomics Research Institute), 1899 Bar and Grill, Sodexo (Food Services and Facility Management), and NACET (Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology).
A three-part, private-public partnership was established with the building of the 1899 Bar and Grill located on NAU’s north campus. It is open to the public, including students, faculty and conference center guests.
“The university leased the space where the 100-seat restaurant now sits from the NAU Foundation. The Foundation put up the money to build the restaurant and NAU subleases the restaurant to Sodexo, who in turn runs the restaurant,” said Mason Gerety, the vice president for advancement at NAU.
Gerety said this partnership had a positive impact on NAU’s budget in that it brought financial resources to the table that were not state or university dependent.
“As we move away from being a state supported institution of higher education, we are going to be looking for a lot more strategic partners to help us with our mission,” said Gerety.
In addition to lessening the financial burden on the university, these partnerships serve as a nexus of opportunities for the city as well. Jane Kuhn, associate vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, cites the High Country Conference Center (HCCC) as a model.
“The City of Flagstaff made a $2 million investment when the conference center was built,” says Kuhn. “This was part of economic development with the idea that the conference center would attract new business to Flagstaff and drive BBB tax.”
In a presentation to the Flagstaff Tourism Commission last fall, Kuhn approximated the HCCC brought 17,588 visitors from outside of Flagstaff to the community, which contributed to over $50,000 in BBB taxes collected from the HCCC in 2010 alone.
Anthony Figliola, vice president of Empire Government Strategies, a New York-based grassroots lobbying and business/economic development firm, says, “These partnerships build long-term relationships between government and private industry. They rely on each other, and together, they promote their region with the goal of making it a better place to operate a business and raise families.” FBN