Entrepreneurs Hope To Bring Crowdfunding To P3 Projects

Great article in ENR about InfraShares and the benefits of crowdfunding for P3’s.  If you can’t access ENR, here are the high points: “Morteza Farajian, program manager with the Virginia Office of Public-Private Partnerships, last year led the writing of an academic paper on crowdfunding and P3s as part of his graduate thesis. The paper, submitted to the Transportation Research Board, notes that the 2012 JOBS Act “removed the Securities and Exchange Commission’s restriction on public offerings, allowing for ‘crowdfunding’ equity investment in new ventures. InfraShares allows P3 developers to raise equity from a broad base of individual investors, which increases public engagement and drives political support.” Says Farajian, “This could be the next wave that comes to project delivery.” He says he and Ross discussed how to get state transportation departments to embrace the concept based on Farajian’s study of actual P3 projects.” One inherent challenge is that, while crowdfunding can raise millions of dollars, public infrastructure projects under P3s will cost billions of dollars, notes Brad Guilmino, national director of financial services at HNTB Corp. “I think the bigger thing is for individual investors to know how to analyze this asset and understand their risk factors.” Both Guilmino and Farajian note that the perceived social benefit of a project in one’s community may be a big plus. “Individual investors [may] accept a lower rate of return due to lack of pursuit risk and perceived social return,” states Farajian’s paper. Public reluctance to raise the federal fuel tax to help fund projects has pushed the movement to develop user-fee-based alternatives, and this idea can help further that discussion, says Guilmino. “[With this website], you can pick and choose an asset you believe in,” he says.

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