Having waited until 2013 to notch its first-ever stateside deal, Plenary Group is now making a run at the US. To lead the charge, the company tapped a West Coast infrastructure veteran with pedigree.
Dale Bonner, who as a government official introduced California to private investment in public infrastructure in the early 1990s, joined Plenary in March.
The appointment of Bonner as chairman of Plenary Group USA is a new chapter for the Toronto-headquartered public-private partnership (PPP; P3) developer well known in Canada and Australia, but with a hitherto scant market presence in America.
The announcement in April that a Plenary consortium had achieved preferred bidder status for a toll road concession in Colorado involving US Route 36 (US 36) marked what Bonner and his new employer claim as proof of a new-found commitment to the US market.
In addition to US 36, Bonner pointed out that Plenary is also bidding on a medical centre project in his home state, as well as a social infrastructure P3 in Puerto Rico: a juvenile detention centre named Nuevo Comienzo, or ‘New Beginning’.
According to Bonner, the timing worked out right, both for himself and Plenary.
“The US finally has a foundation for a P3 market in place,” he said, citing a number of PPPs either in progress or under development in the US while noting that his experience in public office “added value” to his new role.
“It is definitely a help,” explained Bonner, who served as State Secretary of Business and Transportation for California. “Just to be in a better position to be able to evaluate how serious a project is: how much can we spend to pursue a mandate; is the project for real or is it a press release?”
In the meantime, Bonner said Plenary Group USA, headquartered in Los Angeles, is in build-out mode.
Joining Bonner in L.A. are senior analyst Will Gorham and Marv Hounjet, a company vice president who has been named director of operations for the US. Bonner said he expected to add three more people to his office by year-end.
Bonner is also examining where in the US Plenary will pursue business, not to mention what kind of projects might be “strategically” most appropriate, he said.