Innovators in Action: Jacksonville, FL Commissioner of Public-Private Partnerships Renée Finley on Building the City’s PPP Program to Drive Efficiency, Quality of Life

Soon after taking office in July 2011, Jacksonville, Florida Mayor Alvin Brown established the city’s first Office of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a means to leverage greater returns from public resources by cultivating new funding sources for city initiatives, forging new partnerships with the private and nonprofit sectors, and optimizing the use of public assets and city-owned real estate.

Consistent with the office’s mission, Mayor Brown looked to the private sector for leadership of the new PPP office, ultimately appointing Renée Finley—an executive-on-loan from Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida)—in November 2011 to build the new office and set a course for PPPs in Jacksonville. In less than two years, the PPP office has already generated some significant results, including tapping approximately $7 million in direct private sector donations and grants, and approximately $2 million in identified cost savings opportunities through efficiency and competition initiatives.

In our latest interview in the Innovators in Action 2013 series, I interview Finley on the origins and accomplishments to date of Jacksonville’s PPP program, lessons learned along the way, and more. Here’s a brief excerpt of the interview:

Leonard Gilroy, Reason Foundation: What drove Mayor Brown’s decision to launch the Office of PPPs so early in his administration?

Renée Finley, Commissioner of Public-Private Partnerships, City of Jacksonville, Florida: The concept started with the mayor and his vision to reform government. Coming into office, he was faced with a $53 million budget deficit, so he articulated a number of reform goals, one of which was to position the city government for the new economic reality that we were facing. And he had a second goal of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of government. Mayor Brown believes that we can attain more efficiency in the delivery of public services and achieve better results by leveraging the strengths of both the private and nonprofit sectors.

Gilroy: What goals did the mayor have in setting up the Office of PPPs? What were the areas of focus?

Finley: There were really four key areas of focus. The first was around optimizing assets and services, and the thought was, “how do we leverage the strengths and resources of the private and nonprofit sectors in the delivery of public services and public works?” And furthermore, he wanted to explore opportunities to leverage city assets—in particular, real estate assets—by getting them in the hands of the private sector so they can drive additional private investment for further economic development for the city.

The second area of focus was around the facilitation of private interest in economic and urban development. The third area of focus was to facilitate private support and nonprofit involvement in education and workforce development initiatives. And, the fourth area focuses on delivering partnerships that improve the quality of life for Jacksonville citizens.

Check out the full interview here for details on the results of Jacksonville’s PPP initiatives thus far, which will hopefully inspire other cities to pursue similar endeavors.

Other articles featured in the Innovators in Action 2013 series are available here.