To say that Congress has been busy this past year is an understatement. Yet, its accomplishments have been minimal due to extreme partisanship and political gamesmanship. With elections in just a few short months, you can expect little of this to improve. If anything, it’s going to get worse, if possible.
This doesn’t bode well for investment in publicly funded infrastructure projects or the related construction activity that typically stems from it. On the upside, privately funded construction seems to be gaining some strength after a long dry spell. There are promising pockets of activity in various regions around the country, provided we don’t see additional shocks to the market that curtail their funding — something all too common over the past two years.
So what does lie ahead for construction in 2012? Like 2011, it’s a murky forecast. Since the start of the recession, indicators that most economists follow have proven unreliable or misleading. And the weak nature of the overall U.S. economic recovery has made it highly vulnerable to even the slightest tremor in the global markets.
With that said, Equipment Today has brought together some of the construction industry’s leading economists (see page 16) to share their views on what we can expect in the year ahead, with a particular focus on the highway bill and the outlook for federally funded road construction. Although they aren’t especially optimistic, there are positives in their forecasts, and they offer some great suggestions for ensuring ongoing viability of federal highway funds. If only we could get Congressional leaders to focus on promoting progress and jobs, rather than their prospects for re-election!
Campaigns such as I Make America (www.imakeamerica.com) and Transportation Makes America Work! (www.tmaw.com) are helping to build awareness of the conditions faced by the construction industry. But they can’t do it alone. It’s crucial that construction business owners work in conjunction with these efforts to promote action on the part of elected officials. It is unacceptable that legislation such as reauthorization of the federal highway bill has been pushed aside for so long. It’s time for Congress to act and put more construction employees back to work.
If you’re unsure how you and your company can get involved, visit the websites mentioned or contact your local or national industry associations to find out how to get started. Or you can call or email your local representative directly to express your views about the lack of progress in securing additional funding for U.S. infrastructure development — whether it’s building a major interstate project, repairing a failing bridge or upgrading decaying sewer or water lines.
Another big step you can take is to pay close attention during this election cycle. Instead of simply listening to the rhetoric espoused by political candidates, take a look into their past records on legislation that has and will directly affect your business. Make sure they practice what they preach. If not, make your concerns known now and especially when you enter the ballot booth this fall.