Public-Private Partnerships: Improving Urban Life

By Perry Davis | Go to book overview

The Role of the University in Public‐
Private Partnerships

RONALD C. KYSIAK

Although public-private partnerships have usually been limited to business and government ventures, there is a variation that can be a powerful tool in meeting new economic-development goals—the university-public-private partnership. This partnership has been effective in some parts of the country in promoting a technologically oriented economic-development program.

Joint university, public-sector, and private-sector initiatives in New Haven, Connecticut, and Evanston, Illinois, have forged unusual yet highly effective alliances between city governments and universities, two institutions with a history of conflict. The enmity that characterizes these relationships was pronounced in New Haven and Evanston because of a basic political conflict over the universities' tax‐ exempt status and the seemingly uncaring attitude of those institutions toward the budgetary and developmental plight of the cities. Yet these fragile coalitions, once built, can be powerful in dealing with the rejuvenation of obsolete economies and depressed business climates.

The benefit of these partnerships is that they strengthen the existing public‐ private partnership, because the university contributes something that neither the business community nor the public sector has — the prestige and environment of a major institution, including its faculty and physical resources. These attributes were of little import when economic-development programs were built around the seminal strategy of attracting and retaining an industrial base. This was the major urban strategy of the 1950s through the 1970s of most of the cities in the Midwest and the South, while eastern cities were slowly realizing that such a strategy was doomed to fail. The eastern cities, such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New Haven, first suffered the major shift away from manufacturing in the national economy. They came to understand the necessity of a more effective strategy tied to new technology to generate new business. The implementation of this strategy demanded university involvement and opened the doors for mutual discussion among public, private, and university sectors in order to create a nur

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