EVEN WHEN A CITY KNOWS WHAT IT NEEDS AND HOW TO GET IT, PUBLIC PROCUREMENT PROCESSES CAN MAKE IT HARD TO ACCESS NEW, CROSS-CUTTING, OR RESILIENT SOLUTIONS.
Many cities across the United States are home to legacy infrastructure systems, which are not only poorly suited to their current needs but are nearing (or well past) the end of their usable lives. Unfortunately, cash-strapped smaller cities are often forced to make incremental repairs rather than investing in more cost-effective long-term solutions. To break free of this cycle, cities and utilities need new alternatives to access new ideas, new partners, and new money and escape old ‘pieces-and-parts’ procurement approaches. Put simply: cities must be able to buy things differently in order to buy different things.
A number of big cities and counties like Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, and Prince George’s County have been experimenting with procurement tools — like Requests for Ideas (RFIs), design competitions and challenges, and performance contracts — to do just that. However, many smaller cities haven’t had the same opportunities to benefit from these tools.
The Procuring Resilience Opportunities (PRO) brought together city and utility leaders from 7 small- and mid-size cities alongside a select group of private sector water innovators to explore how “big city” procurement tools can be adapted to meet the needs of smaller communities and jumpstart progress towards upgrading legacy water infrastructure systems.