P3C: Industry readies itself for defining moment

Deputy Editor Jonathan Davies reports on the key trends emerging from the P3C event in Dallas last week

A few months have gone by since the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and it’s now time for the P3 industry to seize the day.

The P3C conference in Dallas was all about looking forward and getting down into the details on how to deliver the $1.2trn “downpayment” on the country’s future, as ex-USDOT chief Rodney Slater described it.

Authorities from across the US, big and small, gathered in sessions to learn how to deliver P3s, with a renewed focus on the model thanks to the opportunities afforded by the IIJA. Alongside this, countless businesses, from engineers to planners, attended for the first time on exploratory missions to see how they can ride the coming wave of P3s.

The optimism on both sides of the public/private divide was palpable, but the challenge is how to turn this mood into momentum.

Sessions wrestled with the key questions coming out of the act: How can P3s be involved in the burgeoning Electric Vehicle sector? Are rural broadband P3s even a P3? Will the increasingly green public opinion drive more large-scale energy P3s, as we’ve seen happen at the universities?

It’s not all new innovations that are set to bring opportunities, however. One major investor pointed out that the horizontal infrastructure built in the early-to-mid 19th century is passing its sell-by date and replacing or retrofitting that will see major bridge, toll, airport and other large scale P3s come to the fore - as we have recently seen in Pennsylvania.

There seems to be plenty for all on the way, big or small. 

Alongside the countless opportunities being raised, warnings were also sounded. Supply chain issues, inflation and capacity are crucial challenges that will need to be navigated. With the tragedy in Ukraine piling ever more uncertainty into the markets and exacerbating concerns over fixed-price contracts, authorities will need to be savvy in attracting wary contractors and investors to their projects.

Perhaps the biggest topic at the conference was ESG, demonstrating how this has moved from something of a fringe topic within the construction and investment worlds to center stage. As a central part of the IIJA, delivering infrastructure to underserved communities to help tackle deep social divisions was at the very heart of leading policymakers’ discussions.

The “multidimensional problem” of ESG is a “perfect fit” for P3s, the Build America Bureau’s executive director Morteza Farajian said, stressing its ability to handle complexity and deliver innovation.

Whether connecting communities with transit or with broadband, helping alleviate current infrastructure needs or preparing for the world of tomorrow, P3s have a multifaceted and crucial role to play in shaping this country’s future.

There is an old adage in the industry that there are more P3 conferences than P3 projects. That may be about to change.

Following P3C, the P3 Hub Americas conference takes place next week in New York on March 23rd. It will provide an opportunity to speak directly to some of the key decision-makers within the industry, as they join our smaller boardroom and workshop discussions, giving delegates a chance to ask their questions and get their views across in a more intimate environment. 

Join us there to hear more about progressive P3s, the LatAm pipeline and how we can keep the IIJA momentum pressing forward. Click here for more details.