Aiming to boost infrastructure investment as a bigger economic priority in U.S. policy for the next administration, a new coalition is pushing to gain support of its “Blueprint 2025” initiative in Congress and among the key presidential contenders.
Construction-industry and other business-sector CEOs and leaders of public agencies and financing entities are the current and desired advocates. Among other actions, the effort aims for a White House-level agency to expedite infrastructure project permitting and technology adoption, as well as a national infrastructure bank that would inject at least $2 trillion in new investment over the next decade—something proponents say could hike GDP by at least 1%.
“Blueprint 2025 is a broad-based effort, drawing critical ideas from diverse stakeholders across the infrastructure community, from designers to operators and from builders to users, [and] across the range of issues, from private finance to public capacity creation and from priority project selection to business model development,” says John Kingston, president of the McGraw Hill Financial Global Institute.
The company, whose name is changing to S&P Global as early as next month, is among the first 27 members to invest $25,000 each to propel the initiative. It aims for 100 corporate members.
“This is a broad-gauged effort focused on bringing in all stakeholders and using social media channels to engage everyone in the issue of new investment, the right investment and new technologies to create an entirely new economic platform for the U.S.,” says Norman Anderson, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based global infrastructure consultant CG/LA, which is spearheading Blueprint 2025.
“Now is the time to think about how to meet the infrastructure needs of the future,” Andres Gluski, another early Blueprint member and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based energy firm AES Corp., said at a March 9 CG/LA forum in Washington. “It’s hard to think of the U.S. being competitive when we’re underspending in infrastructure. It has not been a U.S. priority for many years, and if this continues, we can’t maintain our lead.”
He told attendees that AES is “investing heavily” in lithium-ion battery-storage infrastructure but said as much as $140 billion in power infrastructure investment is needed in the U.S. through 2038. Other private Blueprint members include the John Laing Infrastructure Fund, Dallas-based high-speed rail developer Texas Central Partners and consultant McKinsey & Co.
“We believe in the need for a bold vision,” added Michael Salvato, asset management director at New York City-based Metropolitian Transportation Authority, a Blueprint public-sector member. “We’re pretty ineffective in delivering infrastructure. Things are notoriously siloed.” Among other coalition non-dues-paying public advisory members are the US Army Corps of Engineers, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Port of Charleston, S.C.
Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, now a private-practice attorney, said Blueprint must connect quickly with presidential front-runners since the transition process starts as early as June, and “new leaders will be those without a lot of national experience.”
Anderson says proponents will begin monthly congressional breakfasts in late March and town halls around the U.S., through the election and the first 100 days of the next administration.
Private-equity firm executive Leo Hindery advocated the formation of an infrastructure bank that would be “a wholly owned government corporation with non-partisan directors appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate,” to include infrastructure-savvy business executives and economists, labor leaders and public policymakers. Anderson concedes, “The infrastructure bank idea is not new, but it has never come to fruition.”
The bank would be “seeded” by a one-time federal appropriation of up to $150 billion, which would leverage private capital investment of up to 10 times, “a magnitude of leverage and lending capability several factors greater than any other well-intentioned bank proposal advanced,” said Hindery. It would be a decentralized bank, “like the Fed,” said Anderson. But Hindery conceded opposition from “big commercial banks and their D.C. lobbyists.”
Blueprint proponents noted that construction-sector support has been slow.
Design-constructor CDM Smith has signed on “to be part of the thought leadership. We like the approach,” said Vice President Timothy D. Feather. “Even if this doesn’t work, we are demonstrating to clients that we are making a difference at a high level. There is a marketing benefit.”