As the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is implemented, businesses and local governments are stepping aboard the program to re-engineer and rebuild the nation’s public infrastructure and technology networks. For years—sometimes decades—local agencies and corporations have expressed frustration over the inability to fund construction programs that ultimately will provide good, secure jobs and better connections between employees and their workplace. But now, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has emerged for the civil and environmental engineering industry. Finally, we are able at least to begin bridging the persistent gaps in our infrastructure.
Some of the riches required to build these roads to the future will be allocated from Washington to the states and local communities. Weeks ago, L. Robert Kimball & Associates, which offers architecture, engineering, technology, and consulting services nationwide, began contacting thousands of our customers and others with whom we’ve had conversations to alert them to the potential of the Obama plan for their organizations. In response to information we mailed them and a special website at www.reengineer-america.com, these government agencies and businesses have told us about the projects they are planning, as well as the questions they have about how they can qualify for funds.
The most common concern we’ve found is that organizations do not have previous experience in successfully applying for these types of grants, so many of them are calling in Kimball, with its 55 years of work on civil and corporate projects, for counsel on how to position themselves to apply for the funds.
Another concern has been understanding the government’s definition of "shovel-ready" projects—those for which the funding is intended. Kimball is advising these organizations on ways to expedite their projects and on the incorporation of comprehensive project planning techniques to shorten schedules and make the most of their new budgets.
Furthermore, in reviewing the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Kimball has developed a number of observations and recommendations, including the following, which will serve as principles on which local government agencies and businesses can build their relationships with the Obama plan:
- Organizations need to act now to submit their applications for the somewhat limited number of projects that will receive dollars from the program.
- State and community government agencies, such as state transportation departments and local school districts, will determine which projects will be funded. It will be important for agencies and corporations to gain counsel and representation from engineering firms with a strong understanding and extensive history with how these entities make decisions. Keep in mind that projects currently pending are likely to receive top funding priority.
- This is an exceptional opportunity for organizations to advance their services, their growth, and their stake in America’s infrastructure, technology, and institutions. They should ensure that they work with a design and engineering firm exhibiting the stability, scope, and specific expertise that these long-term projects will require.
The new program will help the civil engineering industry and the nation alike. When we build better roads and bridges, we revitalize every element of the construction community and all the services that support them. Beyond the immediate impact, better roads make it easier for employees to reach their jobs, easier to recruit employees from throughout the region, and easier to expand businesses requiring vehicle access.
Building programs for clean water, flood control, and similar environmental investments serve to protect our health and safety and place our local economies on a steadier footing; and public transit projects move customers and employees more efficiently across economic boundaries and segments.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will re-energize communities and help restore confidence in the nation’s transportation, education, utility, and technology infrastructure. This is a time for hand-raising and aggressive participation in this program. We all should be ready to get to work re-engineering America.
Jeff Kimball, P.E., is president and CEO of L. Robert Kimball & Associates, Ebensburg, Pa. He can be contacted at email@example.com.