Strategic infrastructure planning is a great way to make a huge difference in the quality of life in our communities because it addresses jobs, health, and safety.”

Marina Leight, California Public Sector Account Director, Southland Energy

 

States and cities are carefully watching Congress regarding a much-needed economic stimulus package. Governors, mayors, and education leaders across the country have been crafting documents about our state, city, and school needs. Rightfully so, healthcare and hospitals have been on the forefront of attention as of late.

For those responsible for infrastructure and building and facility management, a funding stimulus package is a big opportunity to address pressing needs while optimizing the built environment for the future. And, for those who were tackling similar issues in 2009, there’s a lot of conversation harkening back to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and what it meant to be “shovel ready” and well-positioned to receive needed project funding. However, the economic situation caused by the pandemic is very different than 2009. Currently, strategic infrastructure planning is a great way to make a huge difference in the quality of life in our communities because it addresses jobs, health, and safety. Here are some ways to be ready:

Be Aware of the D.C. Landscape

To be ready for stimulus monies, you should understand a few basics around what Congress is discussing:

  1. Don’t despair, there is every indication to believe that there will be a stimulus package — most likely before the end of summer.
  2. There is intense bargaining happening about federal judges and politic posturing regarding limiting liability, lawsuits, and litigation as a result of the pandemic.
  3. Accountability and transparency will remain important.
  4. It is not about shovel ready this time (think recovery ready/job ready).
  5. Formulas for disbursement will be greatly debated. There seems to be a general disposition to not create new disbursement channels and protocols. Things could go directly to the states where they will use existing agency vehicles (e.g., state energy offices, Department of General Services, etc.).
  6. Stimulus money will be focused on addressing shortfalls in revenue (public sector budgets have been strained in new ways).

Public infrastructure and building facilities must operate in the healthiest and most efficient manner possible.”

Marina Leight, California Public Sector Account Director, Southland Energy

 

Get into a Planning and Evaluation Mindset

The consistent theme amongst public sector leaders is what does the “new normal” look like. What role do we each play in the new world of being pandemic and prevention ready? People are anxious about what the future looks like, which permeates all of our thought processes: budget, personnel, and viability. The solution to conquering this uncertainty is to get into a planning and evaluation mindset. City and state leaders who are modeling scenarios based on pessimistic, realistic, and optimistic numbers find themselves much more in control of the public good.

Evaluate Projects and Priorities

Public infrastructure and building facilities must operate in the healthiest and most efficient manner possible. Everyone has deferred maintenance projects so list the projects and then prioritize them. As you work through this list, don’t think about the stimulus money or funding sources — just make your list. Don’t consider stimulus funding as a one-off opportunity. You may be surprised at new financing models or strategies that come with the “new normal.”

Your priority projects should be based on a variety of factors:

  • Impacts on health and safety (air and water)
  • Reducing operations or energy costs
  • Costs associated with not addressing the project — buildings must always operate in the most healthy and efficient way possible (deferred maintenance costs much more in the long run)

The solution to conquering this uncertainty is to get into a planning and evaluation mindset.”

Marina Leight, California Public Sector Account Director, Southland Energy

 

The Secret Sauce: Procurement Path

Having a procurement plan is critical. After you have prioritized your projects, think about how to procure and pay for them.

Bring in experienced private sector partners for the work you need. Remember, you can pay down current obligations and leverage new money and lower interest for bigger projects. Additionally, you may be able to capitalize on accelerated construction timelines with any empty facilities.

Remember to fund as many operational cost savings as possible, beginning with those with the shortest payback, and to use appropriated funds for the long payback measures or as upfront payment on large financed projects. At the end of the day, we need facilities designed to be resilient and safe for occupants and to operate efficiently. The current issues are an opportunity to create great places to live and work.

Tags:

  • Marina Leight recently joined Southland Energy as part of the California public sector team. In her previous position at Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), she worked on strategic relationship programs and served as head of public sector business development for the North American market. Marina was also the Senior Vice President for the award-winning Governing magazine, where she launched a large infrastructure initiative and directed market research programs to help companies navigate public sector contract, procurement, and sales processes. Her background includes developing policy and management-oriented programs for state and local government officials across the finance, education, healthcare, technology, and public safety verticals.

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