By Chad Carlton
P3 Kentucky Publisher
Kentucky’s state parks provide a great opportunity for major investments in resort hotels and amenities through public-private partnerships, according to a panel of experts who spoke last week at Greater Louisville Inc.’s Issues and Influencers series.
P3 Kentucky assembled the panel for the event, which drew more than 30 business leaders. Government Strategies sponsored the panel discussion and question-answer session.
Mike Mountjoy, founding partner of MCM CPAs and Advisors, said state parks are one of the best opportunities for P3 projects across the Commonwealth. Because more and more Kentucky counties have allowed alcohol sales in recent years, private investors see greater opportunities for building destination resorts amid Kentucky’s natural beauty.
Kentucky’s state parks have more than $240 million in deferred maintenance and would require millions more to meet modern standards for comfort, said Chris Reece, executive director of the Office of Finance in the state’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
“Kentucky doesn’t have the money to invest in major park improvements,” Reece said. “Those lodges will stay like they are for a long time if you’re waiting for the state to invest money alone.”
That’s why the Commonwealth is interested in private sector proposals to improve key parks, particularly some of the 17 resort parks among the 49 Kentucky state parks.
“They’re worn out and need to be updated to the standards that today’s guests demand,” Reece said. “Who better to do that than the private sector, companies in the hospitality business?”
Some proposals for park improvements have already been submitted using the “unsolicited proposals” component of Kentucky’s expanded P3 law, Reece said. This approach, which relies on the private sector to identify possible investment opportunities on state-owned land, reduces the risk and increases the likelihood of reward for the public.
“It doesn’t leave the state guessing at what is a good investment,” Reece said.
The Commonwealth is openly encouraging private sector ideas for investment in public assets that create economic activity and improve opportunities for citizens, he said.
“We’re looking for creativity and we find there’s a lot more creativity from the private sector,” Reece said.
Many of the business leaders who gather for the P3 Kentucky panel discussion indicated interest in being part of P3 projects. Among the areas of interest:
- Roads and bridges
- Water and sewer systems
- Energy efficiency in public buildings
- Public transit
- Health care facilities
Mike Shull, a member with Frost Brown Todd LLC, encouraged business leaders to work together to explore P3 opportunities, and he said his firm sees great value in being part of the P3 Kentucky Roundtable and the on-going discussions about public infrastructure.
“P3 Kentucky is a valuable asset for the entire state,” Shull said. “It’s providing a valuable service.”
Reece agreed, citing both the P3 Kentucky website and events like this week’s GLI sponsored panel as examples.
“P3 Kentucky puts the players together for P3 projects,” he said. “I can’t tell you where they are, but P3 Kentucky can.”