Writer: Roger Nielsen
More than five dozen local government leaders explored innovative ways to fund critical local government infrastructure projects at Funding the Future, a two-day educational symposium coordinated by the Institute of Government.
The symposium, the first of its kind, provided local government managers, finance officers, public works officials and related professionals with expert information on traditional and alternative methods for financing infrastructure in a growing state.
Institute financial management faculty and specialists in public contracting law led presentations designed to strengthen local government leaders’ knowledge of traditional and alternative financing methods. In addition, panel presentations explored the funding mechanisms that resulted in successful public-private partnerships.
Government attorneys and finance officers who attended the symposium said the sessions provided valuable information.
Alisha Gamble, finance director with the City of Flowery Branch, said the symposium helped her to better understand the effects infrastructure financing can have on such things as the city’s operating budget. Benjamin Jackson, who serves as Lincoln County attorney, said the sessions gave him a better appreciation of the intricacies of county government finance.
“I really appreciated the multidisciplinary view I got. I liked having bond counsel speak, and county commissioners speak, and finance people, and getting their point of view,” Jackson said.
Institute faculty member John Hulsey, who previously served as Jackson County finance director, led discussions on traditional financing methods, the intricacies of managing public debt effectively and how to develop a successful capital improvement program.
“Funding the Future provided critical information to help local government professionals better understand the entire spectrum of effective infrastructure development programs,” he said.
Bond attorneys with Smith, Gambrell & Russell, an Atlanta law firm that specializes in public infrastructure finance and management, presented sessions on innovative and traditional methods of financing public projects. Additional sessions allowed participants to explore private financing of public infrastructure and the legal landscape of such arrangements.
Two panel presentations featured examples of how private resources were successfully used in public infrastructure projects in Atlanta and Athens.
Barry McCabe of Majestic Realty and Fulton County Airport Manager Tim Beggerly led a discussion about a partnership that brought a major UPS distribution center to county-owned land next to the airport. A second presentation explored the innovative funding mechanism used for the Athens Downtown Parking Deck, which incorporates retail and restaurant space in its façade.