Infrastructure Projects Good for Economy, Jobs
I receive a stream of press releases every day, but I was struck recently by two that came hours apart and focused on the problem of aging infrastructure in the United States.
I receive a stream of press releases every day, but I was struck recently by two that came hours apart and focused on the problem of aging infrastructure in the United States. The basic message? Our infrastructure is in terrible shape, so is our economy, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could help our economy by improving our infrastructure.
President Obama’s proposed jobs bill includes some potential funding for water, but its chances of passage are slim and none, in my humble opinion. While the last stimulus wasn’t very stimulating, I still support the general concept.
Green for All, in partnership with American Rivers, Economic Policy Institute, and Pacific Institute, released a new report in early October examining the economic and job creation impact of investment in water infrastructure in the United States. The report provided job creation estimates for each of the 50 states and reviewed the workforce opportunities that would result from such an investment, analyzing a representative set of occupations in industries related to water infrastructure.
The report offered three key reasons why now is the best time to tackle our water infrastructure investment gap: Investments would create jobs; the cost of financing this investment is at historic lows; and the current economic climate can reduce the costs of infrastructure projects.
The Green for All report was in contrast to an annual survey by CG/LA Infrastructure that asked public and private sector executives about the state of the U.S. infrastructure market.
Overall, the scores suggest that the U.S. is falling into second-rate status in the infrastructure arena, becoming a country that does not attract top-flight expertise or resources to its infrastructure business. In particular, responses on questions about leadership and vision yielded lower scores than any previously surveyed country.
A CG/LA spokesman said there is real need for “urgent action and a clear infrastructure strategy for the US.”
On a somewhat more promising note, 93% of executives surveyed said that business conditions in 2012 will be either the same, or slightly better, than 2011 – and virtually all participants said that 2011 has been as bad as 2009, the dark year of the recession. Also positive, those surveyed gave domestic engineering, procurement and construction firms a passing grade, indicating confidence in the technical capabilities of the U.S. private sector to build necessary infrastructure projects.
With the political wrangling in Washington these days, I wouldn’t expect any significant new Federal support for water infrastructure, aside from lifting the Private Activity Bond cap (see my October 2011 column). However, for those utilities operating as an enterprise fund who still have some loose change, now is a good time to invest in the future.
I have to admit it would take nerve to begin planning and implementing a major project in this economic climate. But economics aside, updating, repairing or replacing your aging infrastructure now would provide an immediate benefit for your local economy and help better position your city or town to take advantage of renewed growth and prosperity when it finally arrives.
James Laughlin, Editor