Kathy Thomas, Director, County of San Bernardino Redevelopment Agency (September 2010)
Across the country, governments challenged to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively are turning to public-private partnership arrangements as an accepted tool for serving public needs.
This is happening in the County of San Bernardino - a region covering more than 20,000 square miles at the heart of southern California. Like many regions, the county is looking to maximize its resources and work proactively with its private sector to encourage greater job growth and investment. The work of the County's Redevelopment Agency provides an example of the effectiveness of public-private partnerships and the unique benefits provided to businesses located in "Redevelopment Project Areas."
Redevelopment is one of the most effective ways to breathe new life into deteriorating areas. Redevelopment uses property taxes generated from a project area to assist in the renovation of industrial and commercial businesses and homes, as well as spur new construction. Through redevelopment efforts, a project area receives focused attention and financial investment, removing barriers to new investment by private enterprise. Deteriorating areas become vital and active as homes, businesses, and shopping areas are built and refurbished.
Examples of the technical and financial assistance that can be made available include site selection; liaison between other government departments, property owners, brokers, businesses, and/or consultants; entitlement assistance; job training; and architectural, engineering, or other professional services needed for proposed development.
Consider an example now under way in San Bernardino County. A local steel manufacturing company in operation in the county since 1984 currently employs about 900 people at its facilities. The company is considering new development that would encourage more business growth in the area. The company has identified almost 30 acres on its property for redevelopment into an industrial park. The manufacturer intends to lease the proposed buildings to customers that use its end product.
The facility is located within a Redevelopment Project Area and the county has determined that its financial assistance, particularly in this economic climate, is necessary and feasible for the development of the project. Aspects of the planned redevelopment include new buildings, new rail lines, roads and landscaping, along with the demolition of some blighted buildings on the site. It is estimated that the improvements will create close to 100 new jobs and retain 115 current positions of existing tenants.
Committed to actively collaborate with businesses in the project area, the Redevelopment Agency offered to provide technical assistance in the permitting process, minimizing entitlement risk and procedural delays. The agency will also work with the business to streamline the project approval process by providing necessary conditional-use permits; assisting in costs associated with environmental assessments; and providing the required technical expertise during the pre-planning and development phases, including advice on how to maximize the project in the overall layout, design, and phasing. The partnership will also include a level of financial reimbursement for predevelopment activities.
It's clear this public-private partnership is a tremendous win-win during a difficult economic period. While there is an opportunity to eliminate blighting conditions, the county and the business owner will significantly benefit by working together to create new high-quality jobs and retain existing jobs. Moreover, the manufacturer will now be able reinvest in its facility and increase its long-term economic opportunity.