Laying the Foundation for America's Economic Future

Dec 8, 2008

Tomorrow we will host "Taking the Challenge: Real Solutions for Rebuilding Our Critical Infrastructure",  which will be streamed live starting at 9 a.m. The program will bring together experts from our nation's transportation, energy, and broadband infrastructure sectors to discuss past experience with capacity shortages, permitting delays, and funding challenges, and outline real solutions that have worked to rebuild critical infrastructure all over our nation.

Our economy clearly needs additional stimulus to support broad recovery across all economic sectors. During this time of significant economic uncertainty, Congress and the new administration can and should consider a full menu of options to stimulate job creation and to support economic recovery. With government budgets and public and private credit markets tightening, many planned infrastructure projects are being left without adequate funding and financing across the country, meaning the backlog of maintenance, repair and capital construction needs is growing.

Because there are thousands of  "ready to go" transit, highway, aviation, water, and other types of infrastructure projects worth tens of billions of dollars awaiting funding and many of these projects could be initiated in the short run, the U.S. Chamber believes that infrastructure investment should be a key component of any stimulus package.

A stimulus will keep people working in good paying construction positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Nov. 7, 2008 that the construction industry has lost 437,000 jobs over the past year and 49,000 in October alone. Unemployment in construction is higher than in any other sector of the economy - at 10.8 percent up from 6.1 percent a year ago.  There is no question that infrastructure investment supports jobs. It directly puts people to work in construction. It supports jobs in manufacturing construction equipment, quarrying materials, design, engineering, planning and finance.

And when projects are done, infrastructure draws businesses to the location, inducing even more jobs. That's just one way that infrastructure investment in the stimulus package will provide lasting economic benefits. The ultimate benefit of infrastructure investment, though, is in lasting assets that are the foundation of the economy. Roads and rails, runways and waterways, fiber, pipelines, transmission lines and water pipes are the physical platform of our economy. Yet the U.S. has not kept pace with the demands of pressing economic, safety, energy and environmental needs in transportation, energy, water and broadband networks.

That's why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched it's Let's Rebuild America initiative last year – to advocate the need to modernize and expand our nation's infrastructure. This initiative focused on driving public awareness, expanding research efforts and building strong political action toward four key goals:

  • Establishing infrastructure as a core economic issues and a high priority at all levels of government.
  • Engaging the public to support sound policies and greater public and private infrastructure investment.
  • Removing obstacles to private investment in infrastructure capacity and promoting policies that streamline project delivery.
  • Ensuring adequate public sector investment guided by effective policies and programs.

Without investments in maintaining, modernizing and expanding these systems, the movement of people, goods, energy and information will be less safe, inefficient and unreliable. For these reasons, infrastructure investment in ready-to-go projects to help states and communities address critical maintenance, modernization and expansion needs, as well as put people back to work in well-paying jobs and supporting key industries.

But the stimulus package will not lessen the urgency for Congress to act next year on the major legislative packages – including SAFTEA-LU, FAA and Water Resources authorization wills – that will contribute to economic recovery and underpin economic growth by reforming, refocusing and recapitalizing Federal transportation programs to addressing national goals. Ultimately, through all of these Federal investments, coupled with state and local efforts and opening opportunities for private participation and investment we build a strong foundation for future economic growth.

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