Public-private partnerships crucial to economic recovery

An image illustrating research into public-private partnerships. (Photo: Ada Ghazali, via Shutterstock)

The pandemic caused devastating economic damage to our communities. While the job market may never return to what it was before 2020, it’s undeniable that government action, combined with the ingenuity of small businesses and corporations, staved off what could have been even further socioeconomic harms.

Between improvements in California’s pandemic impacts, government lending programs and changes in business models, California is poised to reopen on June 15.

Prior to the shutdown, many cities, including Sacramento, were moving toward developing partnerships with private interest

Conventionally, many of us are taught that there are significant differences between the public and private sector. Some extol the virtues of maintaining private, individual interests, while others praise promoting the general welfare through government policy.

In normal times, some may argue that these interests are often competing, but if there is one stark lesson to take away from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that those lines, while necessary, aren’t as deep as they may seem.

Prior to the shutdown, many cities, including Sacramento, were moving toward developing partnerships with private interests to enhance the quality of life for their residents.

One example is the partnership between SAFE Credit Union and City of Sacramento to invest in the new Convention and Performing Arts District. The partnership will no doubt play a key role in restoring the regional economy and improving downtown’s landscape.

As part of this agreement, the city secured an additional $23 million investment in support of Sacramento. So, the question is then: why don’t local governments and businesses partner more?

According to Deloitte Center for Government Insights, cities that smartly use such partnerships can reap a host of benefits, such as driving energy sustainability projects, reducing traffic congestion and driving overall job creation. Research shows that since 2015, more than 30 states have opened public-private partnerships to their municipalities as a way of driving growth.

Yes, such partnerships, dependent upon the project, can increase costs and profitability may vary. But a more global view would suggest that when risks are fully appraised, the return on the investment from a social and economic standpoint can be much more beneficial than a government or business going it alone.

To be certain, Sacramento has been savvy when it comes to innovating. Smart leadership led to the development of the downtown arena, investments in wireless technologies, the Crocker Art Museum, development of the Railyards, the Golden1 Center, as well as ongoing relationships including the Downtown Sacramento Partnership that reports more than $1 billion in public and private investments in the downtown area within the last decade.

SAFE has made a commitment to investing regionally and locally.  We look to set the example of working within the community to do its part to ensure economic recovery from this unprecedented pandemic.

I encourage all businesses and city leaders to continue the innovative thinking that has made Sacramento great and to continue to find ways to partner in the best interest of all our communities.

Editor’s Note: Dave Roughton is president and CEO of SAFE Credit Union, and chair of the Sacramento Metro Chamber. He can be reached at mediainquiry@safecu.org.

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