Centennial, Colorado: Incorporated and Thriving Since 2001

When Centennial, Colorado incorporated on February 7, 2001 it was the largest incorporation of its kind in U.S. history. Centennial is located in the southern part of the Denver metropolitan area, encompassing nearly 30 miles with 103,000 residents in 36,200 households.

Centennial’s incorporation has been massively successful. Over nine years later the city has effectively provided high-quality service delivery at a low-cost with an in-house public staff of only 53 employees. How do they do this? The city relies on public-private partnerships (PPPs) to provide all public works services and intergovernmental agreements to provide public safety enforcement.

To learn more about Centennial, listen to this recent interview between American City & County managing editor Lindsay Isaacs and Randy Pye, one of Centennial’s five founders and its first mayor. Also, be sure to check out the magazine’s recent article on Centennial here, which details the city’s startup and unique approach. Commenting on the city’s large-scale PPP for public works services, Centennial’s public works director notes:

“When we looked at the entire spectrum of in-source versus contract the entire thing out, the choice was very clear that the best service delivery model was an outsourced private-sector model.”

Over 100 contract cities in states like California, Georgia and Florida have taken similar approaches, and there have been several instances of governments moving toward this approach in recent years. Reason Foundation has written about contract cities here, here and here; and will be offering continued coverage of contract cities in its upcoming Annual Privatization Report 2010.

Harris Kenny is a research assistant at Reason Foundation

Harris Kenny is a state and local government policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Harris has worked alongside policymakers in Colorado, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Oregon and elsewhere to implement public policy solutions. Harris is currently serving as a member of the Local Authority Working Group of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's Amendment 64 Task Force, which is providing guidance on implementing recreational marijuana legalization. He conducts research on public finance, public-private partnerships, privatization, public safety, criminal justice and regulatory policy issues.

Harris has appeared on various television and radio outlets, such as National Public Radio, HuffPost Live, Al Jazeera, Voice of Russia and Colorado Public Television. His writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Denver Post, The Sacramento Bee, The Orange County Register, Real Clear Markets,, and other print and online outlets. He also serves as co-editor of Reason Foundation's Annual Privatization Report ( and Innovators in Action ( publications.

Prior to joining Reason Foundation, Harris worked at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. He earned a BA in Economics from Pepperdine University, where he worked as a research assistant to Dr. Luisa Blanco at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy.

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