Sunnyvale Works! has earned the Public Works Project Of The Year Award, as part of PublicCEO’s First Annual Local Government Awards.
While not a single project, Sunnyvale Works! is a collection of projects under a single mantle. What makes it unique and worthy of recognition is that this accelerated capital improvements program has enabled the City to move forward on numerous projects years ahead of schedule.
The program was created in April 2009 under City Manager Gary Luebbers. Sunnyvale is a city of 138,526, the second-largest city in Santa Clara County.
“Cities have to change the way they do business,“ Luebbers told City Council. Against the backdrop of a glum budget forecast for Sunnyvale, Luebbers painted a bright picture of the benefits Sunnyvale Works! will bring to the City.
“Because of the way Sunnyvale prepares its budgets, using a 20-year budgeting forecast, we are in a unique position to bolster our local economy,” Luebbers explained. “We are going to take that money that would normally be spent over the next half-dozen years, and we are going to move those projects to the here and now.”
At launch, Sunnyvale Works! was intended to fund in $60 million in capital improvement projects on a highly-accelerated schedule. While many government projects can take a year or more to move through the approval and contracting process, Sunnyvale has made a commitment to get the projects started as quickly as possible.
Sunnyvale Works! was expected to create as many as 600 or more jobs. City staff was reassigned as necessary to ensure projects moved quickly through the system. The City made a commitment that the approval processes would not be an impediment in the approval process.
What is remarkable and noteworthy is that within eight months of the birth of the idea, Sunnyvale Works! has now topped $100 million in projects. At a time of severe economic distress, Sunnyvale Works! projects are not only getting work underway, but in the process are providing a strong economic stimulus, just when it is most needed.
More than three dozen capital improvement projects have moved from concepts to awards in these eight months. State and federal grant money, including federal stimulus funds, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and state gas tax revenues are funding the bulk of the work.
Construction bids on the work have been coming about 30 percent or more below expected levels. By combining the savings from the low bids with the grant awards, Sunnyvale has been able to leverage the money to pay for yet more work. In this year, Sunnyvale will award $50 million in bridge projects alone.
Luebbers has positioned Sunnyvale Works! to take work that was originally scheduled four, five or even six year out and bring it into this year. He anticipated and took advantage of the bidding climate produced by the poor economy.
As Luebbers explained, “Dire times often present opportunities; the key to success is seizing it. Sunnyvale did. We are a model for the intent of President Obama’s stimulus program.”
Sunnyvale Works! earned the honor by PublicCEO not only for the work accomplished thus far but more significantly because it has demonstrated how to accelerate capital improvement projects on a scale not possible until now.
The opportunities Sunnyvale has taken advantage of will not last forever; cities will need to act in order to take advantage of the current climate. But if a city is willing to reinvent how it does business, as Sunnyvale has, and make a commitment to “just getting it done,” a city and its residents can receive immense benefits.
The opportunities presented today provide a once-in-a-lifetime ability for government to surge ahead and achieve a phenomenal return.
Join us in congratulating the city Of Sunnyvale on this award in local government.
Other Winners Announced So Far:
Jan. 26: The Public Information Officer Of The Year
Stay tuned this week for more Local Government Awards from PublicCEO.com. For more information, please contact the editor, James Spencer, at