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Paperback Book Details
  • 03/2020
  • 9798614428273
  • 306 pages
  • $12.99
Paul Redvers Brown
Author, Contributor, Editor (anthology)
Too Good to Be True: Scottsdale and Privatization in the 1980s
This is the personal story of a very public project. In 1984, a respected Boston environmental engineering firm took on the industry’s biggest engineer-constructors to win the first municipal water treatment plant privatization project in the country. The City of Scottsdale, Arizona had embarked on the "untested" financing approach to take advantage of tax incentives that arrived with the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Because it was the first of its kind, and the water industry saw many more to come, this small project captured nationwide attention. As the City raced to build the treatment facilities needed to take long-awaited water supply from the Colorado River, a team of aggressive long shots took on the world of infrastructure development and finance. It’s a roller-coaster ride from big achievements to colossal blunders, seen through the eyes of an ambitious MBA, in way over his head. Ultimately, it's a cautionary tale for young professionals that there’s a lot to be gained by taking risks and even more to be learned from accepting defeat.
Reviews
Brown (coeditor of Water Centric Sustainable Communities) meticulously recounts the privatization of the Central Arizona Project Water Treatment Plant in Scottsdale, Ariz., exposing the triumphs and pitfalls of the complex Reagan-era project. Taking advantage of a variable-rate, tax-exempt municipal bond to save costs, Scottsdale hired Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM), a Boston-based environmental engineering firm, to design, build, and operate the plant. Brown was on the front lines as CDM’s corporate planner: young, ambitious, often idealistic, and “in so far over [his] head.” Brown narrates an educational play-by-play of how CDM, hesitant to enter a market it knew little about, hired numerous experts and came away from this first privatization of its kind with greater knowledge of the mechanics of project development, financing, problem-solving, and managing risk.

While sometimes oversharing extraneous details such as lunch meeting menus and flight schedules, Brown expertly evokes the 1980s era of greed-is-good corporate efforts. Illustrating the Scottsdale project’s backstory, Brown conjures the context and flavor of every step of the CDM’s operation, including negotiating a construction agreement, examining Colorado River water quality issues, and recovering after the liquidation of its construction partner. All these proceedings are overseen by a cadre of colorful characters. Comfortable revealing personal details, Brown shares his own doubts peppered with bursts of determination.

Readers interested in large-scale construction and resource management projects will absorb Brown’s thorough overview of the Scottsdale project, the wins and the setbacks, and the intricacies of tax rates and sales documents. Professionals in any field can apply Brown’s information to a general business context, the enormous number of steps involved in corporate negotiations, and all the ways things can go wrong. This is useful and often gripping reading for MBAs and executives as well as urban planners and officials.

Takeaway: Readers interested in large-scale construction and resource management projects will be fascinated by this intricate recounting of privatizing a water treatment plant in the 1980s.

Great for fans of David McCullough’s The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 03/2020
  • 9798614428273
  • 306 pages
  • $12.99

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