By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
A conference hosted by the Kentucky Chamber focusing on Kentucky’s new public-private partnership (P3) law brought industry leaders from around the country together to hear about the opportunities P3 brings to the Commonwealth and how investors and the public sector can move forward with the process.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships (NCPPP), held The Kentucky P3: Public-Private Partnerships Conference in Lexington October 27-28.
With more than 40 speakers over the two-day event, the P3 Conference brought business and industry together to discuss the opportunities and obstacles facing the Commonwealth and provide an in-depth look at Kentucky’s new P3 law.
Kicking off the conference Thursday, Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson discussed the benefits the new P3 law will bring to the state and explained that the Chamber has been advocating for public-private partnerships for many years because of the new investments and ideas it can bring to the state.
Attendees then heard from the sponsors of the public-private partnership legislation which passed in the 2016 session of the General Assembly, Rep. Leslie Combs (D-Pikeville) and Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), who joined Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts to explain what the new law entails.
Rep. Combs, the legislation’s champion for many years, discussed the process of getting the bill passed and pointed to the national attention Kentucky has received for its P3 law because of the level of transparency it contains.
Both legislators stressed the important improvements P3 projects can bring to the state through new money and innovative ideas from the business community.
“P3 lets everyone benefit from having business do what business does best,” Wise told the crowd.
Other sessions at the conference included detailed discussions of how the P3 law will work in Kentucky, first steps in the process, the framework for public-private partnerships and much more.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Don Parkinson served as the keynote speaker for the lunch on Thursday, discussing the possibilities he feels are available with the passage of the new law for areas of state government, including parks, which will bring new investment and interest to Kentucky.
In his address, Parkinson noted how much Kentucky has to offer when it comes to tourism but said the state isn’t living up to its potential due to a lack of funds and innovation. That, he said, is where P3 comes in.
Parkinson said the new law is about making Kentucky more business friendly at the state and local level. He pointed to the outside funding and expertise the private sector brings to the partnership, but stressed the the state remains in control—an arrangement he said will save the taxpayers money and reduce risk.
In the second day of the conference, attendees learned about the procurement process involved with P3 projects, details about market trends, an explanation of the financing process, and discussion with those who have already completed P3 projects in Kentucky who detailed what they learned from the experience.
Representatives from the University of Kentucky, which used P3 to complete some student housing on campus, explained that the school’s use of P3 for residence halls frees up their debt capacity for core functions of the university in areas like academics and healthcare.
After hearing the experiences from Kentucky projects, Friday’s lunch panel featured the best and worst practices from a local government perspective from a group of experts from other states.
Panelists emphasized that the projects that will be undertaken with P3 are things that the state couldn’t do otherwise as everyone is being charged with doing more with less funds and public-private partnerships are a way to achieve that.
It was also stressed that both the public and private sectors take their time to get it right when working on these projects to ensure a positive outcome for all those involved.
At the conference, it was announced that the Kentucky Chamber will be forming a P3 workgroup to take a deeper dive into the issue and serve as a platform to help facilitate information and participation in these types of projects.
To learn more about the issue and how to get involved in the workgroup, contact the Kentucky Chamber. All Kentucky Chamber members are welcome to participate.
For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line blog.