Terry Dillon, owner of Atlas Excavating in West Lafayette, Ind., and president of the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA), testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to encourage the committee to make a significant federal investment in America’s underground infrastructure improvements in any economic recovery legislation.
Dillon discussed the dormant water and wastewater infrastructure market and how the situation has been exacerbated by continued reductions in federal funding, along with the downturn in the housing market and other current economic predicaments facing America. Regarding a recent project in Minnesota, Dillon said: “Just recently, a publicly-financed project drew over 50 contractors to bid on a project that was worth approximately $150,000. In the end, it went for approximately $80,000 — not even enough to cover employment costs. The bottom line is that right now contractors are virtually bidding on any job at any amount to stay alive.”
Dillon went on to discuss the economic benefits that come with funding clean water projects, including job creation and other associated benefits to local economies. When these projects are funded, “people are hired, materials and equipment are bought,” Dillon explained. “Just look at the Clean Water Council. Water infrastructure projects provide employment opportunities for contractors and subcontractors, engineers, suppliers and manufacturers, as well as countless construction laborers.”
(The Clean Water Council is a coalition of 34 national construction organizations working collectively to increase funding for the nation’s underground environmental infrastructure.)
And economic benefits do not stop with job creation.
“In times of economic difficulty, the funding of construction projects is an effective way to stimulate growth and development far beyond the construction industry as the economic benefits ripple through local economies,” Dillon said. “The jobs offered in this industry are jobs that are provided right here in America. These are not jobs that can be shipped overseas.”
Dillon went on to discuss projects that are “ready-to-go” within a matter of months if funding becomes available. These projects were collected through surveys conducted by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators.
“Clearly, investing in our underground infrastructure can provide a sharp economic kick-start,” Dillon stated. “We can put people to work right now and begin the road to recovery if Congress steps up to the plate..”
Dillon also encouraged Congress to take a balanced approach to economic recovery.
“Tax incentives have their place in the road to economic recovery, but they are no silver bullet.”
Dillon went on to reference a recent survey conducted by NUCA and the Associated Equipment Distributors, an active member of the Clean Water Council. The survey concluded that utility contractors would be much more likely to purchase new equipment and hire new employees if Congress enacted legislation that would increase federal investment in water infrastructure.
“The message here is simple, and it’s one that NUCA has advocated for years,” said Dillon. “Tax incentives only work when there’s enough work out there to provide an incentive to buy. A truly effective stimulus proposal would therefore couple significant investment in America’s suffering underground infrastructure market with tax incentives to encourage equipment purchases needed to do the work.”