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The 2012 Utility Construction Outlook

The 2012 Utility Construction Outlook

Powering American Competitiveness By: Mark Bridgers & Nate Scott

America’s economic competitiveness is under threat and the convergence of power, water and sewer infrastructure integrated through communication technology is one solution to an economic competitive advantage. This convergence matters because the ability to efficiently generate and distribute power combined with access to clean water integrated by highly effective communication technology can form the basis of the next generation of “American Exceptionalism.”

Unfortunately, the slowing economy has created fear that American competitiveness is evaporating. American competitiveness has always been based on the amount, quality and application of our resources leveraged by our infrastructure, not short-term economic vacillations. While our fundamental resources are robust, our infrastructure is rotting. President Obama alluded to this fact on September 8, 2011: “…We have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future.” More important than replacing aging utility infrastructure throughout America is recognizing that we stand at the verge of the next generation of “American Exceptionalism” — all we have to do is grab it. The convergence of critical infrastructure is an engine for American competitiveness, requiring the ability to efficiently generate and distribute power combined with access to clean water integrated by highly effective communication technology. Contractors that possess superior capabilities in two or more of these sectors are well positioned to thrive in 2012 and beyond.

History of American Competitiveness

America is resource rich. The United States and our neighbor Canada lead the world in possession of many important resources. The United States and Canada account for 5 percent of world population and control 13 percent of the arable land, 15 percent of the oil production, 28 percent of the coal and produce 24 percent of the electricity. Still, our resources are limited. Making use of them in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way challenges America’s entrepreneurial capability to adapt and overcome through building new and maintaining existing infrastructure.

Competiveness requires more than resources. U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the world’s largest at $14.5 trillion and by comparison, the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China lag. China and India account for 37 percent of world population but rank below the United States in nearly every hard-to-replicate resource. One reason for this difference is infrastructure. American entrepreneurs and farsighted government leaders created and reinvented an infrastructure advantage to complement our resources for most of our history. BRIC leaders are attempting the same feat through new high-quality infrastructure. The necessary infrastructure for advantage changes over time and is shifting again favoring convergence of water, wastewater, power and communication resources. It is time to reinvent America, as our forefathers did:

1800-1860 — American competitiveness based upon water and canal transportation.

1860-1900 — American competitiveness based upon rail transportation.

1900-1950 — American competitiveness based upon rapid industrialization.

1950-1980 — American competitiveness based upon highway and air transportation.

1980-2000 — American competitiveness based upon information technology.

The future?

The convergence of water, wastewater and power resources linked by high speed and reliable communications technology is one solution to building economic competitive advantage. This convergence matters because the ability to sustainably and in an environmentally responsible way use these resources is the basis of the next generation of “American Exceptionalism.”

Mark Bridgers of Continuum Advisory Group is a consultant of Beezley Management, LLC.