It's all in who you know

You don't have to be a big gun-a Los Angeles or New York City or St. Louis-to get your share of the shrinking federal-funding pie. But you do have to network.

That's how George Bostic, public works director for a tiny town in Oregon (pop. 2,300), upgraded his wastewater treatment plant When he called colleagues in neighboring towns for advice, he learned that the state organizes an annual meeting between funding agencies and potential applicants

No small accomplishment for a department with an annual wastewater budget of less than $800,000.

Each year almost $500 billion is allocated to state and local governments for grants and zero-interest loans, which contribute 5% to 20% of the average local government budget. Meanwhile, despite escalating local need, federal allocations to state revolving funds for clean water and drinking water initiatives have dwindled over the past five years.

In response, Public Works readers like Bostic are turning to each other for leads to 'new' sources; learning what projects other public departments are looking to fund and increasing their chances of becoming grant recipients by tying requests to the socioeconomic needs of their communities. The grants network www.ecivis.com , for example, reports that cities and counties are funding green initiatives through programs from the departments of the interior, energy, and commerce.

When we talked to Bostic for our June cover story, he'd so fully internalized the concept of networking that he takes it for granted. But other city employees don't.

'The article was a great reminder of how relationships are the key to finding success in our industry,' Shady Cove City Administrator Elise Smurzynski wrote in an e-mail to pw@hanleywood.com. 'It painted a picture of how those relationships help both large and small communities arrive at successful outcomes to serious challenges. While we are different in so many ways, we also have share common issues and our success is all about making the human connection.'

What unusual sources have you tapped to fund initiatives? Drop me a note at sjohnston@hanleywood.com