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5 Things We’ve Learned About Public-Private Partnerships

A public-private partnership (P3) is when the public sector (government) and the private sector (typically a business) partner to more efficiently and effectively solve a problem than either could do on their own. P3s can be deployed to make things happen that simply wouldn’t be possible without the partnership.

Kilbourne Group is grateful for the partnership extended by the City of Fargo in redeveloping our unique, culturally rich, historic downtown neighborhood. The programs put in place by City leaders, including the Renaissance Zone, PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), and Tax Increment Financing, have paved the way for increasingly significant private investments into historic renovation and urban infill development. The programs have allowed existing neighborhoods to compete with new subdivisions for return-seeking private invest dollars. The result is a vibrant, revitalized, nationally recognized downtown that has become a key component in attracting and retaining talent to grow Fargo’s workforce. Here are five things to know about public-private partnerships designed to support the growth of a city.

1.      Public-private partnerships are developed to realize a community vision. In the case of Downtown Fargo, the Fargo InFocus plan is based on feedback from thousands of residents and guides the kinds of projects the City will partner on. There are also parking studies, housing studies, and the Fargo GO2030 plan which guide Fargo’s evolution.

2.      No two public-private partnerships are the same. While there are policies and guidelines on how various programs can be used, each partnership is nuanced and negotiated to provide the best return to taxpayers.

3.      All public-private partnerships should be thoroughly analyzed to determine the return on the public’s investment. Don’t stop with short-term calculations. Look out a couple decades to determine if the public’s investment will be recouped and if it provides a positive return to the city and its people. The City of Fargo often engages with a third-party economic consultant to analyze proposals and ensure they are in the best interest of the City.

4.      Public-private partnerships come in many forms, including up-front incentives, tax abatement, publicly provided infrastructure, low-interest loans, grants, and many others. In each partnership there is risk and there are ways to mitigate risk to the public entity.

5.      Public-private partnerships have resulted in some of North Dakota’s downtowns most unique assets. They’ve helped keep century-old buildings safe and occupied, and have worked to draw private investment into downtowns, which leads to a growth in a city’s tax base without the expense of building new infrastructure. When the Renaissance Zone was launched in 1999, downtown Fargo’s value was about $150 million. When Block 9 is completed, downtown Fargo’s value will top $700 million. That’s good for all Fargo taxpayers and is the result of the public sector and the private sector working together.

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