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Nearly 100 current and future professionals in the field of municipal finance and development gathered on March 22 for the 2013 ASU Municipal Finance Challenge, hosted by Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs. The conference focused on how to advance creative partnerships for successful municipal finance deals.
“I’m very passionate about this topic,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of ASU’s College of Public Programs and director of the school, in his opening remarks. “I think that this subject of the financial capacity of the public sector is, perhaps, the key challenge in governance in the years ahead.”
Throughout the day, speakers from teams nationwide that have creatively financed and successfully implemented municipal projects broke down core principles in the field, shared best practices and project successes, and explained how to assess risks.
More than two dozen speakers from both the public and private sectors shared their expertise, including ASU President Michael Crow, who spoke about the university’s innovative financial partnerships with the cities of Phoenix and Tempe, and the public sector, to enhance education and business opportunities.
Participant Daniel L. Smith, assistant professor of public budgeting and financial management at New York University, said the conference “boasted what is easily the most impressive line-up of municipal finance experts and professionals I have seen at such a convening.”
Debra Dupée, managing director for Advanced TechSolutions, LLC, in Tempe, Ariz., also attended and spoke highly of the event.
“Everything exceeded expectations,” Dupée said. “The speakers and their topics were innovative and well-researched. The entire effort displayed a great deal of professional and academic excellence, typical of ASU quality.”
Graduate students from the university also attended the conference, including 10 students from Gerald Miller’s weekend intensive course in advanced financial management.
“It provoked a lot of great discussion,” said Miller, who is a professor in the school. “The conference brought to life a lot of the concepts the students had only read about. It meant a lot to them to attend.”
He noted the afternoon joint session, during which experts spoke about the keys to making their projects successful, was particularly meaningful.
During the session, speakers from Oklahoma City shared their success financing more than $2.4 billion of capital improvement projects using temporary sales taxes and citizen involvement. Representatives from the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, N.C., and the Overton Hotel and Conference Center in Lubbock, Texas, also shared their experiences creating successful deals.
“The discussion around the case studies about pay-as-you-go and various alternative financing techniques was the conference’s high point,” Miller said. “It gave an unexpected bonus to the background the rest of the conference speakers provided.”
The 2013 conference was the second of the school’s annual Financial Markets Boot Camp series, and was held in downtown Phoenix, Ariz. It was co-chaired by Susan Giles Bischak, president and CEO of Giles & Company Strategic Business Consultants, Inc., and a faculty associate in the school; and Michael Stanton, publisher of The Bond Buyer, the municipal bond market’s daily news source.
Presenters included key players in municipal finance for economic development, public-private partnerships and infrastructure development, including: Gabriel Petek, senior director at Standard & Poor’s State and Local Government Group; Kurt M. Freund, managing director of municipal finance for RBC Capital Markets, LLC; Matthew Jones, senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service; James D. Couch, city manager of Oklahoma City; Raymond Garfield Jr., president of Encore Garfield Public/Private LLC; and Jay Goldstone, chair of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, and an alumnus of ASU’s master’s program in public administration.
Sponsors included: The Bond Buyer; Government Finance Officers Association; the Municipal Finance Journal; RBC Capital Markets; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP.