Editor’s Note: The following article is one in a series of six profiles of winners of NCPPP’s 2016 National Public-Private Partnership Awards, which recognize organizations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to advance the concept and implementation of P3s across the country. The winners were honored during P3Connect 2016 in Chicago.
As a creative problem-solver, John Picerne does not pursue short-term, single-project contracts; nor does he cultivate just any client. The founder and CEO of Corvias Group is committed to developing long-term relationships with organizations that serve the public interest, such as the Department of Defense, universities and local governments. He is a rebel for a cause — in fact, several.
To help the Army provide and care for soldiers and their families, Picerne founded Picerne Military Housing in 1998. The firm entered into a P3 with DoD in 2002 to replace aging and substandard base housing and maintain it for 50 years. By 2005, Picerne Military Housing was responsible for about 15,000 homes and established partnerships with seven Army posts. Within the first decade of these partnerships, the company successfully cleared the Army’s housing maintenance backlog 20 times faster than the Army could have done using traditional procurements and returned $659 million back to DoD.
As the company matured, Picerne started to consider how to be a better community partner. This led him to establish the Corvias Foundation in 2006 to focus on educational access and encourage his employees to find their own ways to give back. To date, the foundation has awarded more than $6.5 million in scholarships and grants to support military spouses’ and children’s pursuit of higher education.
Taking note of Corvias’s track record, in 2013 the Air Force selected the firm, which had been renamed Corvias Military Housing, to privatize 4,040 units of housing at six of its bases.
Today the company maintains nearly 25,000 homes on more than 12,000 acres for DoD. In addition to delivering attractive, modern homes in beautiful communities for military personnel and their families, Corvias has built 32 full-scale community centers on these installations.
Corvias has further strengthened its relationship with DoD by helping its military partners increase their energy security and reduce their carbon footprint. In 2015 Corvias Military Housing began investing in another partnership to develop 100 megawatts of solar power generation from panels attached to homes at 12 of its installations as part of President Obama’s solar initiative.
Upon realizing that many colleges and universities face challenges in providing adequate student housing, Picerne founded Corvias Campus Living in 2012. Nationwide, 70 percent of on-campus housing is more than 25 years old with $774 billion in deferred maintenance. This led to Corvias’s first student housing P3, a 65-year partnership with the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, which includes the development, construction, management and long-term maintenance of more than 3,750 new and 6,195 existing beds on nine campuses. This partnership is the first example of a private firm stepping in to help a state system modernize and maintain its on-campus housing.
Unlike traditional contracts, the Corvias P3 model places all excess capital into a reserve account to reinvest in the facilities, ensuring their future upkeep and modernization.
Picerne’s desire to build and sustain socially responsible infrastructure extends to environmental projects as well. He started Corvias Solutions in 2013 to help public agencies solve environmental, energy and infrastructure challenges while complying with regulatory requirements. Through a P3 it launched in 2014, the company has been helping Prince George’s County, Md., meet its federally mandated stormwater management requirements while boosting local economic development. During the first 100 days of its Clean Water Partnership, Corvias subcontracted more than $5.7 million of work, $3.4 million of which is being performed by small, local businesses.
The company also launched a mentor-protégé program where selected local businesses receive specialized training to boost the county’s economy and bolster the growth of companies that can perform high-quality environmental and project management work there. Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality have praised this innovative approach, which is just one example of the efforts the Corvias Group has made since 2002 to subcontract more than $2 billion worth of work to small, veteran- and minority-owned businesses.
The name Picerne chose for his trio of companies and their parent exemplify his business and philanthropic philosophies — his rationale for choosing the projects and clients he does. Corvias is Latin for “by way of the heart.”
“We really think about our customers and principles and about doing the right thing for the world before we take on any project,” he explained in a Q&A published in a 2015 issue of Leaders magazine. “For us, it comes down to our three main principles: being the best provider of customer service, the best place to work and giving back to the communities in which we live and serve.”
NCPPP honored John Picerne with its 2016 Excellence in Individual Leadership Award for his innovative approach to P3s and his success with projects that benefit the military and their families, institutions of higher education, and local communities.