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What is a Public Project?

By Ken Black
Updated May 16, 2024
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A public project is any project that is funded by a government, and is meant to be owned or operated by that government. Governmental agencies may have a hand in a number of other projects through the provision of loans or other means of financial help, but they are not considered to be public projects even though the public has a stake in them. Most public projects relate to work a government does to fulfill a public purpose, and commonly they include such things as road repair and construction, public building construction, schools, and even public parks.

In most cases, city managers or administrators at any level of government must follow a certain process when looking to do a public project. These projects are funded by taxpayer dollars, and therefore are subject to more open procedures than many other projects. For example, a public project may need to publish requirements and request bids. Those bids must be opened at a public place and then considered publicly.

In order for a contractor to win in a bid for a public project, it may need to meet certain criteria. Often, the company must be bonded and submit a bid bond with the project. Some governments may require union work, or at least salaries on par with the prevailing wage in the area, which the local government often determines. Advocates say this helps protect the jobs of union workers, and prevents companies from out of the area bidding low and corrupting the process. Opponents say it is another way for politicians to provide political kickbacks to unions.

It often takes months or years for a public project to move from the conception stage to the construction stage. Depending on the project, the construction could take anywhere from a matter of days to multiple years. During this time, decision-making bodies, such as councils and boards, often seek public input to determine the best way to proceed. For example, a transportation board may seek the best location for a new highway, or prioritize highways that need repairs, with the public's help.

Government projects may also include what is commonly known as vertical construction, most likely in the form of buildings. These buildings may be used for public agencies and offices, schools, prisons or even public housing. These projects are often funded by a variety of sources, such as local and federal governments. Once completed, they are used for the benefit of the community in which they are located. Just like transportation projects, these public projects often are the result of extensive planning and subject to being changed during that process.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Mor — On Jun 30, 2012

@pastanaga - Making public projects community driven is absolutely vital to their success in my opinion. They just won't work if they aren't supported and endorsed by the locals.

I know that there have been cases of someone coming in and implementing some kind of change, like putting in a community center without asking the locals about it and the thing will just stand empty, because no one knows why it's there.

Or someone might put up a statue that gets vandalized all the time, or whatever. But if you involve everyone in the neighborhood and make them feel like it's their project (as it really should be) then the point of the thing will be reached. Public project management is as much about liaising with the local people as anything, I think.

By pastanaga — On Jun 29, 2012

I understand that it's inevitable when you've got something working it's way through public policy for it to take a very long time. But I can understand why people get frustrated when they look around see the problems happening in their communities today.

For example, there was a plot of overgrown land in a neighborhood near mine that they wanted to be turned into a park so the local kids had somewhere to play. They had put in a plan and everything to the local government but it was taking a very long time.

Then someone did some so-called guerrilla gardening on the plot. That's when people go in under the cover of darkness and clean up an area, plant some flowers and so forth. It looked so much better that other people just started doing bits and pieces until it looked really good and the kids started playing there. It was completely unofficial (they did eventually get it made into an official park) but it was community driven and I think that's important.

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