Everybody’s talking

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | November 2008 Vol. 63 No. 11

As turmoil continues to grip the world’s stock markets and traders seem to have a knee-jerk reaction every time some CEO goes to the bathroom, there is a bright side.

Presidential candidates and Congress continue to suggest that a second economic stimulus package is the answer. Now the Fed Chairman is saying basically the same thing. And occasionally, mixed in all the stimulus talk, infrastructure investment is mentioned as well.

I would suggest that what our country really needs is a different kind of “stimulus” package in lieu of individual refund checks. While we all enjoy receiving a few hundred extra dollars, the effect is fleeting and long-term benefits few.

What would be far more effective is a serious infrastructure investment package that has tremendous short- and long-term benefits – at least to our struggling domestic economy. Such a program, while it may take a few months to kick off, would quickly generate all kinds of economic benefits, far more expansive and much longer-lasting than a one-time spending spree of $600 by individuals (and there is considerable debate that much of the rebate money this time around would be used to pay off bills or even hoarded due to economic worries rather than freely spent).

As an infrastructure industry, we’ve got to be proactive. It’s time for organizations like AGA, AEM, APWA and many others – who are quick to boast about their political might and effectiveness – to take the initiative and ensure that election year sound/video bites are actually translated into a beneficial reality in a clearly defined 2009 time frame.

But perhaps the greatest struggle of all will be if groups like WEF, AWWA and others are committed, organized and effective enough to make sure the underground sewer and water infrastructure receives its equitable share of any kind of overall public works spending initiative. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

The broad associations and lobbying groups have members from all walks of public infrastructure interests, but tend to be dominated by the above ground and more visible areas of public infrastructure. Their focus will not favor underground infrastructure interests.