AUSTIN, TX: Two Austin PR agencies have hit pay dirt by participating in their clients' bids for massive public works projects.The PR arm of SWG&M Advertising is part of Lone Star Infrastructure, a 19-company consortium recommended to build a 90-mile freeway that will bypass Austin to relieve congestion on Interstate 35. The $1-billion-plus project could mean steady work for partner companies for some 20 years.
"A critical portion is the public element, the element of community relations - how we inform the public of the construction project,
said Gabriela Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Although SWG&M will represent Lone Star's interests, Garcia said the firm would work closely with TxDOT's public information office to enable and ensure uniform messaging.
Thomas Graham began working with Lone Star member clients on the bid proposal even before he folded his Graham & Associates PR firm into Austin's 54-year-old SWG&M in December 2000. He foresees serving as a liaison among TxDOT, Lone Star, community officials, and the public.
"Every company that desires to pursue business involving public funds and interaction with the public would be wise to utilize PR counsel and consider the public outreach component,
Other communications firms participating in the bid process were TateAustin, part of Texas Corridor Constructors, and Group Solutions RJW, which calls itself a "public involvement
firm and participated in the Four Rivers Developers consortium.
The bypass, State Highway 130, represents one of Texas' biggest-ever road construction projects and a departure from usual bid letting. Instead of piecemealing work over decades as funds become available, TxDOT is hiring one consortium to build the entire highway and maintain it for 15 years. The process should accelerate construction since workers can begin building one stretch while design and right-of-way acquisition are underway for other segments.
Through a similar process, TateAustin is expected to get long-term work through client Catellus Development, a San Francisco real-estate firm the City of Austin selected to redevelop the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. TateAustin worked with Catellus during the bid process. A great deal of community outreach work is expected as Catellus develops commercial and residential space on the 709-acre site, which was decommissioned in May 1999 when Austin-Bergstrom International Airport opened.