Public-private partnerships the focus of Eggs and Issues

Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce sponsored presentation by senior vice president of Balfour Beatty Construction

January 09, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • Balfour Beatty Construction Senior Vice President David Birtwistle talks about public-private partnerships Wednesday morning at an Eggs and Issues breakfast held by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Underpass Way.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Transportation, military housing, and hospitals are examples of how public and private organizations can work together efficiently, Balfour Beatty Construction Senior Vice President David Birtwistle said Wednesday . 

“Public-private partnerships are all about a solution to a public need,” Birtwistle said. “It is a valuable tool that every public entity should consider for projects.”

Birtwistle, who served with the Fairfax County, Va. Economic Development Authority for 11 years and the County’s Office of Management and Budget for seven years before that before moving to Balfour Beatty in 1997. He spoke to public officials and representatives of private organizations Wednesday morning at an Eggs and Issues breakfast held by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Underpass Way. The event was sponsored by First United Bank & Trust.

He gave a Power Point presentation about the opportunities and obstacles of public-private partnerships (P3s) for services and infrastructure.


“It’s not for every project,” he said.

But “private sectors can bring skill sets and new technologies to help deliver projects in the most efficient and best way for the public entity that sometimes can’t otherwise be done.”

Included in Birtwistle’s 23-slide presentation were advantages and disadvantages of public-private partnerships, keys to success for such partnerships, and areas where the partnerships could best be implemented.

Balfour Beatty Construction is a division of Balfour Beatty PLC, a construction company that has had public-private partnerships in the United Kingdom and done around $750 million of contracted work under public-private partnerships in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Birtwistle spent time talking about infrastructure projects.

“Infrastructure is probably the most prominent (of public-private partnerships) because they are the most expensive projects that the public entity has to deal with,” he said. “But there are other examples. You have technology projects, and you have procurement-type projects that are also done under a P3 scenario.”

Water and wastewater, schools, prisons and judicial-related projects, urban redevelopment, and general administrative projects are examples of infrastructure areas where Birtwistle said public-private partnerships had been applied.

He included in the keys for a public-private partnership to be successful such things as an organized structure; a detailed business plan; a guaranteed revenue stream; stakeholder support; and choosing partners carefully.

Chamber President Brien Poffenberger said that this is a good time to have an event on public-private partnerships.

“In a time when public entities don’t have the resources to do things that most people consider the very essentials of government services, people have to get creative,” he said. “The city and the county could certainly tick through individual projects that they would like to do but know the resources aren’t available.

“Our goal is to have players in Washington County realize that there’s a path to getting things done that they may not have thought about otherwise,” Poffenberger said. “If we can form public-private partnerships to help bridge some of those financing gaps, that might be a solution for projects that we once thought weren’t possible.”

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