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Partnering: The Complementary Assets of Businesses and Park and Recreation Agencies

John L. Crompton

Abstract


Establishing partnerships with commercial entities is of growing importance to park and recreation agencies. The successful pursuit and cementation of such relationships is dependent upon an understanding of the contributions that both parties can contribute to a partnership. The intent of these arrangements is to combine the strengths and assets of each party, to produce selected· facilities or services more efficiently than if either party produced them independently.

A park and recreation agency has four major assets it can contribute to a partnership. First, it is likely to have substantial land holdings, some of which could potentially be leased. Second, it has access to low cost capital because government bonds are tax exempt. Third, the public sector has the authority to substantially reduce the property tax payments of commercial enterprises by offering them tax abatements. Finally, governments have the ability to expedite permit and zoning applications, which can accelerate the development process and substantially reduce costs incurred on development loans.

The commercial sector has five types of assets that it could contribute to a partnership. In contrast to a park and recreation agency, businesses can raise capital quickly to respond to market opportunities. The only requirement is that they demonstrate to directors, investors and bankers that the venue is likely to generate a satisfactory return on investment. A second asset is the availability of specialist management expertise in some aspects of the eclectic park and recreation field that may complement the expertise of agency managers. The labor intensive nature of park and recreation services, makes the cost of personnel a major element in the cost of service delivery, and in some contexts businesses may be able to operate with reduced labor costs. A fourth asset is the greater agility ofbusinesses which are not inhibited by the bureaucratic procedures to which many agency managers have to adhere. This permits greater adaptability to changes in scale of service. Finally, partnering with businesses may enable agencies to shift liability risks to their private sector partners.

Potential barriers to cooperation between agencies and commercial entities are addressed. These focus on different value systems, organizational milieus and levels of budget flexibility, and the issue of control. Frustration with these differences often coalesces into negative stereotypes. It is suggested that these are frequently false, and reasons for their evolvement are offered.


Keywords


partnerships, parks and recreation, businesses, opportunities, barriers.

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