Industry execs say infrastructure stimulus critical to recovery

By |  April 16, 2020

Norman Anderson, CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure, calls for both funding and a shift in mentality regarding infrastructure’s role post-pandemic. Photo: CG/LA Infrastructure

The world as we knew it rapidly changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a down economy and dramatic unemployment.

The United States will likely see shifts in the way business is conducted once the world resumes. This includes a shift in the way infrastructure is approached.

CG/LA Infrastructure, which offers advisement services along with project development and macroeconomic analysis, conducted a survey of infrastructure executives asking if a strong infrastructure stimulus bill is necessary to move forward in a post-pandemic world. Norman Anderson, CEO of CG/LA, discussed the survey’s results in an exclusive interview with P&Q, as well as the survey’s implications and what ultimately needs to be done with U.S. infrastructure.

Survey findings

CG/LA conducted a survey with nearly 150 respondents. Of the respondents, 35 percent work in the engineering and construction industries, 19 percent are in the financial sector or investors, 14 percent are in the technology sector and 20 percent are in services or other categories.

CG/LA’s survey finds that 94 percent believe an infrastructure stimulus is critical for the U.S. to emerge from the current crisis. In addition, 69 percent say the stimulus should consist of at least $400 billion, with 94 percent believing the nation should increase private infrastructure investment. Sixty-six percent believe the infrastructure stimulus should be at least 50 percent private.

Real-world implications

The survey results reveal an overwhelming majority of industry executives want a robust infrastructure stimulus. But what does that desire really mean in the grand scheme of things?

According to Anderson, the results reveal people’s priorities – especially in a crisis. These include water, mobility and social infrastructure, among others.

“When we do surveys, one of things we find is that people really focus on things that are important to them and their health.”

Those priorities can lead people to this question: “Where does the money go?” Based on the survey’s results, wastewater treatment, highways, hospitals and schools would be good starting points for that discussion, Anderson says.

In addition, the CG/LA survey shows that the majority of infrastructure execs would like at least half of the stimulus to come from private investments.

“[That] surprised me because, normally, the infrastructure community just focuses on public investment,” Anderson says. “But I think what they’ve seen is that it’s uncertain and too thin, too small.”

Actions needed

To offset the coronavirus’ impact on the economy and infrastructure, Anderson believes a $3 trillion stimulus over the course of the next decade is necessary.

“You’re really talking about 10 years [and] you’re talking about an actual $3 trillion,” Anderson says. “I think half of that would be from the public sector, the federal government and the states. Then, $1.5 trillion of that would come from the private sector.”

In addition, Anderson suggests the need for supply chains to come back to the Americas, with Canada and Mexico playing big roles alongside the U.S.

Other takeaways

While the most prominent survey takeaway is the need for an economic stimulus, Anderson calls for a thoroughgoing shift in mentality when analyzing infrastructure’s role in the U.S. economy.

“What’s really required is a change in attitude in terms of how we think about the infrastructure that we need,” Anderson says. “The investments we’re making now have to serve people for the next 30 or 40 years.”

The coronavirus has forced many employees to work from home, and Anderson believes more companies will shift to that in the long-term. This means infrastructure stakeholders need to adjust to less people congregating in urban areas for office jobs.

While bringing infrastructure executives into the conversation is critical, Anderson says the public should also have a prominent voice in the discussion.

“I think we need to have a national infrastructure conversation and ask, ‘What do we want the country to look like in five, 10, 15 years? How are we going to make that happen?’ That’s what I see us needing and needing fairly desperately,” Anderson says.

For additional P&Q coverage related to the coronavirus, visit our dedicated webpage.

Carly Bemer

About the Author:

Carly Bemer (McFadden) is a former Associate Editor for Pit & Quarry.

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