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December 16, 2016
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An unsolicited question

The latest news from DC demonstrates the growing appetite from private players to make their own work

Kevin Costner was once famously told: “If you build it, he will come.”

This is something that many in the US P3 market have been taking to heart over recent months. On the west coast, LA Metro’s team have been enjoying the fruits of their Measure M vote and have been eager to tell the market that they want to hear their ideas for the long list of projects that the region has.

And this week, in DC, P3 Bulletin revealed that there is strong interest in the district’s process for accepting unsolicited proposals, with the district’s Office of P3s (DCOP3) revealing that it expects to see a number of offers on the table by the time the deadline for this first round of bids arrives on 26 January.

A growing number of public and private sector players across the US seem to be embracing this approach to unsolicited proposals, which appear to have helped break the shackles of the P3 market in some parts.

Interestingly, this is one area in which the US leads its northern neighbor, Canada, when it comes to P3s. North of the border, unsolicited proposals are generally eyed with suspicion, with many in the market unable to see how they could do anything but upset what has long been a stable and predictable process.

And while there may be some justification in arguing that there is no need for an unsolicited proposals process when you have a strong pipeline of clearly defined projects for the private sector to bid on, the way the model is being used in the US is more flexible and may prove to be more appropriate for a market at a different stage of life.

For a start, as a private partner, why would you spend time, money and effort working up a project proposal when there is a perfectly good pipeline of projects to bid for?

In the US, as some of these pipelines are still in their early days (both the Measure M proposals in California and the pipeline in DC have only come to pass in the latter stages of 2016), it perhaps makes greater sense for companies to get ahead of the curve, and recognize where they can deliver projects that would otherwise not be coming to market for a number of years.

It’s just possible that the unsolicited process is just what the US market needs to turbo-charge P3 investment.

For a more in-depth look at the unsolicited proposals debate, see the New Tricks feature in the current issue of P3 Bulletin, or click here.

Editor Dan Colombini is currently on paternity leave, but will be back next week

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