Viewpoint: Let’s Build Our Way Back Now
There is nothing that matters more to the U.S. economy right now than the depth and duration of the current recession. We can’t do anything about the depth, which will be revealed soon enough, but we can control the length and breadth of what is to come.
The industry that engineers, builds, finances and operates American infrastructure has an unusual opportunity to make that duration short by leading the charge to achieve rapid economic recovery, robust job creation and sustained business growth.
With tremendous damage already, this is going to be long and tough. But we must start now and generate both quick and lasting results.
The planned fourth economic stimulus, which Trump Administration officials say “would be infrastructure,” needs to be a modern-day Marshall Plan—with construction industry leaders, not politicians, driving its design and execution.
Decisive and robust action will stop the economic carnage and put millions back to work.
S&P Global Ratings now forecasts that U.S. GDP will contract 5.2% in 2020—substantially worse than the 1.3% decline predicted in March, and likely to get worse.
How can we make the infrastructure plan a reality?
Not Red or Blue—Bright Green
CG/LA Infrastructure Inc research has identified nearly 500 infrastructure projects that are ready to go as strategic building blocks for economic revival. These have already been plotted on a GIS map that highlights direct and indirect job creation. Projects are in every state and in every infrastructure sector—from transportation to water delivery to energy generation to power transmission.
Getting projects up and running would drive a return to growth, creating needed jobs by Dec. 31. These are not red or blue state jobs, but ones in each of our 435 congressional districts that would light up the country in bright green—the color of money flowing back into municipal budgets, business bottom lines and worker paychecks.
The need to repair and expand American infrastructure has yet to gain necessary national political attention and consensus. We must transform perceptions, such as the 92% of executive respondents to a recent industry survey that characterized the infrastructure brand as “weak” or “mediocre.” Transforming perceptions will not alone mean that problems have diminished or demand has been met.
The next issue is getting critical investment. Despite recent Administration hedging on the infrastructure stimulus, there is no better time than now. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have trumpeted $2 trillion in a multiyear effort, effectively doubling our infrastructure investment through 2025— the big bang we need to kick things off.
Let’s anticipate that this initial federal investment can generate the necessary capital from other public and private sources. U.S. government guarantees would help, something the European Union already is doing. In a recent survey conducted by CG/LA Infrastructure, 94% of industry respondents wanted to see increased private investment in infrastructure.
So, from where does the leadership come for this immense mobilization across our country? As I have said, it comes from us.
Who Leads? We All Do
CEOs of design, construction, technology, finance and services firms, who are infrastructure experts, must lead. They must publicly advocate for a financial stimulus that is strong enough to get the job done, develop the plan and lead execution of an unprecedented project mobilization, and insure its delivery. This will result in greater productivity, less congestion, reduced pollution and rebuilt financial security for U.S. citizens.
How often do you have an opportunity, joined with state, federal and business leaders, not only to use the industry’s collective skill and ingenuity to rebuild America physically and financially but also to improve the national mood and mindset.
So, who leads? We all do.
As Chris Lowney, a Jesuit seminarian turned investment banker and a personal friend, says in his still widely read 2003 book, Heroic Leadership, we are all leaders living for "heroic" purposes greater than ourselves.