How to Take Advantage of Federal Infrastructure Funds

The Berger Singerman law firm helps business owners follow the money

“Well over a year ago, we would be talking to our clients and contacts, and they weren’t expressing much enthusiasm about infrastructure funding,” says Dawn M. Meyers, a partner based in the Ft. Lauderdale offices of the law firm of Berger Singerman. “We were a little confused as to why.” She and her colleagues determined to find out, and in March commissioned a survey of 1,700 development, construction, and planning business owners, seeking insight into their perception of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law in November 2021.

While a casual observer could be forgiven for having the sense that the legislation—subject to the compromises of the underpowered Democratic majority in the Senate—didn’t end up offering much, that observer would be mistaken. Over the next five years, the bill is expected to funnel close to $20 billion in federal monies to Florida to upgrade roads, bridges, airports, seaports and water systems.

But even these surveyed respondents, who might use those funds to good advantage, seemed dubious about the enterprise. More than half the respondents said they were “not optimistic about the … bill and how it would help their business,” and 16 percent said they were “doubtful.” A full 67 percent did not believe there would be sufficient opportunity for Florida’s private sector to bid on contracts—and perhaps most chilling of all, only 17 percent of respondents indicated they were very likely to bid on emerging public-private partnership opportunities (a technique the state has used to great effect in recent decades). Twenty-one percent responded as “somewhat likely,” and 62% said they were not likely at all.

Publicizing the survey results was “our way of being proactive from a marketing and business development perspective to get the information in front of our prospective clients,” explains Javier Vazquez, a partner in the firm’s Miami office. “Like any other industry, law firms must compete for the same bucket of clients and prospective clients. In today’s environment, it requires coming up with plans and ideas that put your capabilities and your experience out there. People need to see what you’re able to do and how the new laws can bring them opportunities.”

Meyers adds: “Luckily for South Floridians, our local leaders have placed us ahead of the national infrastructure curve, having already initiated numerous sustainability and transportation initiatives. Our community is now well-positioned to reap the benefits as soon as the infrastructure bill money starts flowing.”

Broward County Mayor Michael Udine echoes those thoughts. “[Broward County’s] voters had the foresight to approve a sales surtax to fund transportation improvements based on a plan the county had developed with municipal input that identified many significant transportation infrastructure projects,” he says.”

This has enabled Broward County to hit the ground running in identifying projects worthy of federal infrastructure funding. We believe the strong position we are in to seek and obtain federal infrastructure funding will greatly benefit our residents and provide additional opportunities for local businesses and local employees to provide goods and services related to these infrastructure projects.”

Companies interested in engaging will need to enter a bidding process, which typically begins with a public entity making a detailed advertisement of the project. It’s important for businesses to keep a watchful eye for these opportunities as there is an urgency for businesses to become prepared and educated about the process, as these dollars will go quickly to those that are ready to act.

With offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee, 90-lawyer Berger Singerman bills itself as “Florida’s business firm,” a moniker in keeping with its creation of an “Infrastructure Task Force,” which includes Meyers and Vazquez. Their expertise is substantial. Meyers previously served as general counsel to the Boca Raton Airport Authority and chief hearing officer with Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. From 2013 to 2017, Vazquez served as a governor’s appointee on the Miami State Expressway Authority, the entity which operates the various east-west corridors in Miami Dade County, collecting tolls and then seeking to put that money “out on the street,” as he puts it.

“Florida is uniquely positioned, in my opinion, to benefit more from this bill, really, than any other state,” Meyers says. “I think we are primed to take these dollars and put them to good, efficient, productive uses very quickly. I love this community. I know what the need is here. So, if I can participate personally, or with our clients to help facilitate improvements? I think it’s absolutely fantastic.”

By David Zivan | Photography by Brett Hufziger

davidzivan
sdoliveira@lmgfl.com
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