Often times, there are community needs that are not being fully met by either the public or private sectors. Cash-strapped municipalities and county governments are beholden to public scrutiny and budgetary restrictions. In addition, public needs – which usually present a zero sum scenario – may not be fully addressed by the business community if it doesn’t make financial sense to do so; businesses need a return on their investment to satisfy shareholders and the bottom line. In these situations where both sides cannot achieve a greater good separately, developing a partnership between sectors presents a unique ability to tackle big problems, coalesce resources, and better serve communities. This is the essence of a Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).
There is no set formula for PPPs. Each public issue – be it broadband infrastructure or job creation – requires a variety of stakeholders, and these stakeholders all have varying (and sometimes competing) needs. Typically, one entity serves as a mediator bringing stakeholders to the table, keeping them engaged, developing consensus, and working toward a mutually-beneficial project that furthers community development. If anything, PPPs are more of a process, rather than a product.
The current state of broadband in our community presents a unique opportunity for the implementation of this model. Broadband is another example of an unmet need that cannot be fully addressed by one side of the public/private equation. The vast mileage between smaller, rural communities requires significant investment to lay fiberoptic cables between them, and the lower population density of these smaller towns cannot aggregate enough demand to break even on this hefty investment. However, each side of the equation has access to different resources that help achieve similar goals. For example, public entities can remove the cost of public right-of-ways and easement perfections to reduce expenses for internet service providers (ISPs) or electrical cooperatives, such DMEA. In addition, ISPs or co-ops can grant access to their existing infrastructure through leasing of “dark fiber” (broadband fiber that has been built, but not “lit up”). The trick is rallying all of these actors to “play nicely in the sandbox” and negotiate agreements that work for everybody.
Region 10 is currently engaged in a large-scale PPP to deliver faster and affordable internet capacity to our communities. The current regional broadband network plan is the result of months of conversations, negotiations, and dialogue between towns, counties, state officials, internet service providers, rural electric co-ops, nonprofits organizations, and community members – all facilitated by Region 10 and NEO Fiber, a consulting firm hired to develop this plan. The regional network is on the precipice of significant funding for its implementation through a variety of grant opportunities – both state and federal. These grant funds will be fully leveraged by matching funds from the communities and in-kind donations from the private sources. Once fully funded and constructed, this fiberoptic infrastructure will incentivize ISPs to offer the “last mile” services – namely, high speed internet to businesses and homes. Considering the size and scope of this venture, the PPP methodology has proven to be the most efficient and cost-effective model.
As the local economy continues to rebuild, Region 10 is striving to implement innovative methods to create jobs, enhance revenue for our communities, and encourage economic development throughout the region. Public-Private Partnerships present a unique model for creating partnerships across our various sectors and meeting our communities’ needs. For more information about PPPs, be sure to visit our Public-Private Partnerships page dedicated to this model, which includes additional case studies and examples.