In many cases, or in the case of larger metropolitan areas, the use of public-private partnerships for economic development or redevelopment purposes involves the use of public resources and financing capabilities to promote local economic development.
Generally, governments participate in projects of importance to the community and, in some cases, public resources are required to make the project economically feasible. In these situations, the public entity provides some combination of tax incentives, public land or other assets, infrastructure investments or financing assistance, while the private entity contributes capital investments, commits to provide jobs, contributes development expertise and typically assumes most of the financial risk for the ultimate project outcomes. These public-private partnerships can either have short life spans covering only the construction period of the project, or longer life spans covering debt repayment or long-term operating agreements.
The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, founded in 2006, is a public-private partnership which was created to support the development and implementation of revitalization strategies in downtown Jamestown, N,Y., and the in the neighborhoods surrounding it, by undertaking planning, research, project management, and stakeholder coordination. JRC is the primary body implementing strategies developed in the City of Jamestown’s Urban Design Plan which has contributed to much of the newer development we see today in downtown Jamestown. JRC is also acting as the coordinating implementer of the recently-completed AECOM Development report, which seeks to continue the positive momentum that is occurring in downtown Jamestown. Because JRC represents a melding of private resources (primarily foundation funding), and public resources (historic tax credits, state grant funding and technical assistance), it represents a unique public-private partnership, one that has led to both economic development and community revitalization successes.
Since 2006, JRC’s scope has widened to include neighborhood revitalization and the positioning of the Jamestown area as a testing ground for unique small city revitalization efforts. In all of its work, the JRC seeks to cultivate an atmosphere that promotes reinvestment, engagement and innovation at all levels and by all stakeholders. The JRC has a six-person staff who report to a 15-member board of directors. The board of directors is comprised of city leaders, including a community leader and the mayor, by office, who serve as co-chairs, and representatives from local businesses and not-for-profit organizations. JRC’s approach to revitalization starts with developing a solid understanding of the challenges at hand, identifying potential solutions, and formulating strategies to address these issues. JRC works with its partners to implement strategies by acquiring the necessary resources and working collaboratively with its partners to address these issues.
The use of public/private partnerships is a growing trend throughout the United States; however, this practice is far from novel or even new. The use of public-private partnerships to meet a wide variety of public needs dates back centuries in the United States. One of the first examples was the Lancaster Turnpike, a toll road built by the private sector with public sector oversight and rights-of-way. It was opened in 1793, and connected Pennsylvania farmers with the Philadelphia market thereby drastically reducing travel times. The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, as well as the first Transcontinental Railroad, finished in 1869, are also two other early examples of public-private partnerships.
Today, partnerships are used for water and wastewater systems, delivery of social services, building schools, and a wide range of other applications, including community development. By far the fastest-growing arena for the use of public-private partnerships is urban economic development. Cities and counties are rapidly applying their experiences with public-private partnerships learned over the last few decades – experiences on how to most effectively combine the strengths and resources of both the public and private sectors. Although public-private partnerships can sometimes be more difficult to execute than other types of organizational structures, the rewards can be worth the effort, as can be seen here in Jamestown.
By Mark Geise, Senior Planner