Blog: Public-Private Partnerships for Public Purpose

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Blog: Public-Private Partnerships for Public Purpose

By: Meredith King

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

There is no question the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on communities. With lockdowns, layoffs, virtual schooling and deadly viruses, almost everyone has felt the effects from this past year. While some of these challenges are not unique, the magnitude of them required community-wide efforts to create and implement solutions. In the past, local and state governments and public agencies did their best to create a safe and healthy community for their residents. However, during this time of crisis, the public sector can no longer go it alone. Private entities, nonprofit organizations and volunteers who partner with the public sector can provide funding, expertise and innovation to address public issues in a collaborative way.

Local and state governments are partnering with the private and nonprofit sectors to facilitate economic recovery and fund needed infrastructure and social efforts in a really remarkable way. Nationally, 2020 saw a record level of public-private partnership (P3) projects in development, with a 26% increase over 2019.[i] The state of Utah has also shown support for P3s, passing SB133 in the 2020 legislative session, requiring the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (now known as GoUtah) to provide a facilitator for public-private partnerships in the state. Currently, the largest P3 development in the state is underway at Hill Air Force Base, known as Falcon Hill Aerospace Research Park. Over 550 acres will be developed into commercial property over the next several years.

Traditionally, P3s are used for infrastructure projects. However, partnerships between the public and private sectors are moving beyond simply cosigning contracts to complete a stretch of highway or build a bridge. Local and state governments are forming partnerships with the private and nonprofit sectors to address broad social and environmental issues such as homelessness, workforce shortages, and air quality. The One Utah Roadmap produced by Governor Cox emphasizes such partnerships, calling for “industry-specific collaborations with the private sector” and identifying “ways Utah can lead out on public-private partnerships focusing on clean energy.”[ii]

BioHive, a public-private collaboration formed by Salt Lake City, serves as the brand representation for Utah’s healthcare innovation community and is charged with helping expand business development efforts. Several public-private collaborations around supporting vulnerable populations during the pandemic have also either emerged or been strengthened in the past two years.[iii]

Often called “the Utah way” or “Utah’s secret sauce,” this type of policy entrepreneurship—policymakers coming together with the private sector to address a public problem—contributes to the strength and vitality of the state. As Utah continues to grow and change its demographic profile faster than any other state, continued teamwork between the public and private sectors—with formal P3 partnerships and informal collaborations—will help provide social and economic opportunity for all Utah’s residents.

Meredith King is a research associate at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.


[i] Bubny, Paul. 30 April, 2021. Momentum for P3 Projects Has Actually Increased During the Pandemic. Connect National, online.

[ii] One Utah Roadmap.

[iii] Webb, Kat. 17 April 2020. Private, Public Sector Partnerships Continue with Efforts to Begin Reopening Utah May 1.

2021-08-24T09:55:00+00:00August 24th, 2021|Blog, COVID-19, Economics and Public Policy, Utah Economy|