More local governments are entering long-term relationships with private providers in public-private partnerships. The arrangements can cover a variety of activities, from building and/or operating infrastructure assets (like turnpikes and parking concessions) to running all city services.

Transportation infrastructure projects come to mind when one thinks of typical public-private partnerships, but energy-saving performance contracts also offer a lot of bang for the buck. The contracts deliver massive energy savings in schools and municipal buildings, with a short payback time frame. Richard Norment, executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based National Council for Public-Private Partnerships, in fact, predicts that public-private partnerships tied to energy generation and conservation projects will be a huge growth area in 2013.

Public-private partnerships in 2013 will share a close connection between challenges and revenue, especially as communities face more urgent needs. Some of those challenges include: aging infrastructure, shrinking economy and government budgets, and growing populations. To more smoothly ride out fiscal hiccups, city administrators are putting greater emphasis on risk management and stable revenue streams.

Look for more creativity as public-private partnerships are formulated and discussed in 2013, especially in the use of social media and other tools to reach out to future generations. Partnerships often involve building infrastructure that will serve a community’s needs for a century or more. Today’s voters will help fund, design and deliver a community’s new infrastructure asset produced by a public-private partnership, but they may not be around to use it.

Creative use of online tools, including social media, will play a bigger role. Through the creative use of online tools and social media, governments can elicit direct input from all members of the community, thereby giving citizens a voice in shaping the municipal future, says Terry Bennett, senior industry program manager for Autodesk, a San Francisco design software firm. A city, for instance, could use an online video game tied into a redevelopment project to give tomorrow’s generations and community members a say in how their neighborhood will look.

Public-private parterships have been a viable option for many cities and counties over the past several decades. However, considering the substantial needs of America’s infrastructure alone, it’s a safe bet that the role of such partnerships will continue to evolve as communities face their most important problems