Value realized in private sector partnerships ineconomic development
County governments in Indiana have been investing in economic development programs since the 1980s, determined to help bring new jobs, investment and resources to their communities. While the levels of invested amounts vary widely among counties according to capabilities and priorities, virtually all Indiana counties have chosen the successful public-private partnership model as the best vehicle for driving control of their own economic destinies.
Why does such a vast majority of Indiana counties choose to use the public-private partnership as the most effective way to control their economic development activity? The answer comes down to four key characteristics: collaboration, leverage, effectiveness and private sector confidentiality needs.
As a former county commissioner and county councilman who served four terms in Indiana local government, I found that these were undeniable advantages to the public-private partnership system. My experience validated the decisions that so many other successful counties had made.
The public-private partnership allows for the organization to be a forum for collaboration between the local government and the local business leaders. One part of this is financial; local businesses make contributions in addition to what the local governments invest, increasing the bang for the buck of the government involvement. The other part of this is the way the organization can listen to advice from business leaders and use their knowledge and operational principles to enhance the way the partnership responds to business needs in the community.
The partnership model does allow the community to leverage contributions from the business sector and allows cities, towns and counties to all invest together in a single organization. It also is an effective group for applying to economic development partners for assistance. The Crawford County Economic Development Corp., for example, received a $150,000 grant from the Regional Impact Fund to pay part of the expense of an economic development project in the county and also was awarded Duke Energy’s financial and professional assistance with a site certification project.
These partnerships prove to be very effective because they are not tied down with many of the state rules and regulations that constrain local government actions. The partnership model like Crawford County’s can react quicker, make decisions faster, and take action easier than a government agency can. Private sector businesses that may want to grow in Crawford County appreciate that work by the partnership.
And finally, the public-private partnership model is designed to provide private business confidentiality to clients that want to grow in Crawford County. The delicate negotiations needed to bring together landowners, utilities, service providers, and business clients don’t need to be hashed out in government meetings.
Since Crawford County adopted the public-private partnership model in recent years, Crawford County has developed a much higher and more effective profile in economic development circles. Radius and other state and regional partners appreciate having the public-private partnership as someone we can rely on to work with on economic development projects. Residents of Crawford County should be proud to see their county actively participating in the economic development field.