Press-Republican

Columns

September 29, 2013

Solution seen for crumbling infrastructure

You don’t have to be a certified economic developer (I’m not) to understand that water, transportation and telecommunication infrastructure are essential to economic growth. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small town, large city, state or a nation, when infrastructure is planned, funded and well-maintained, it plays a vital role in economic development.

Unfortunately, this well-documented link between well-maintained infrastructure and economic expansion notwithstanding, public-sector agencies facing reduced budgets are no longer equipped to make the investments necessary to build and maintain essential infrastructure. Look around and you can see evidence of the gap between the need and the resources that the public sector has to meet those needs.

There are simply not enough tax dollars to go around, but somehow there’s enough to send billions of dollars overseas in the form of “foreign aid.” What’s “foreign” to me is why that “aid” isn’t coming to the American towns and cities that need it.

Don’t let me get started.

Decision-makers at the federal, state and local levels who try to use the traditional approach to building and maintaining infrastructure face a two-dimensional problem. First, they aren’t given the funds to construct necessary infrastructure and, second, they have to deal with the cost of inaction and/or deferred maintenance.

In a 2011 survey conducted by The National League of Cities, 60 percent of the respondents said they “delayed or canceled capital projects that year due to fiscal conditions.” The survey concluded that the funding gap is “unlikely to improve,” which will lead to “further deterioration both in terms of physical condition and value.”

Furthermore, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, 70 percent of their members believe that America’s infrastructure “needs either quite a bit of improvement of a great deal of improvement” and that “infrastructure improvement is critical to the success of their business.”

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