Cynicism is cheap – but so too is the self-congratulatory back-slapping and presumption that the ‘infra bill’ means $$ to feed the hungry AEC machine. Now is the time for the most passionate in our industry to ensure we ‘meet the moment’.
As a person, a father and a professional… I am excited by the bold move the IIJA represents for the United States to demonstrate its unity and ability to lead the world in creating meaningful change. In the wake of COP-26, there’s a lot of talk about change, reform and a renewed focus on climate change – yet many continue to struggle with their daily reality of inflation, food insecurity and social justice chasms.
Here are three things as an AEC professional you can do to support the positive impact of the IIJA:
1. Demand more of your firm
- It is not enough to simply be a barnacle on the backside of progress; it is critical as a team, office and company that AEC firms ask themselves – what are we doing to maximize the impact of the bipartisan infrastructure bill?
- Ask – what is our position on maximizing the bill’s impact, and how can we enable the long-term reward of this moment?
- Challenge – as a collective effort to better the US recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, what are we doing to make sure that we aren’t just taking and we are – in fact – amplifying the benefits of the spend under the bill?
- 2. Consider personal contribution and get involved locally
- As a citizen, whether a renter or a (fortunate) homeowner, the locality you live in is currently assessing how they best address the spending of American Rescue Plan Act 2021 dollars, as well as considering how the IIJA plays into their long term plan.
- Speak up...Your city, county or State needs your input. Many are contemplating public interfaces to prioritize spending, so your voice personally and professionally is critical to channeling dollars to the right need.
- Challenge and advise… Many localities are encountering an obligation to negotiate and deal with the Federal Government for the first time; the key to maintaining maximum bang-for-buck is to ensure that funding sources are matched with compliant uses, which is a hornet’s nest of bureaucracy if done wrong. Work with your elected officials to ensure they get the right advice to minimize claw-back risk.
3. Do not let this moment go to waste
- I implore all AEC professionals to think about the broader network effect of IIJA and plead with everyone to think about the bigger picture. This is the single most significant investment in history to address many issues, from socioeconomic disparity to agency incompetence.
MEET THE MOMENT – act with a lack of self-interest (hitting targets, grabbing attaboys for new contracts, and increasing revenues) and focus on impact.
- The selfless act of directing clients on how best to apply their IIJA dollars to meaningful change, progress and future benefits will support you, and future generations thrive in a less carbon-dependent world.
There is much ado about the IIJA, but most are left with the question – ‘yeah -but what does this actually mean?‘ My answer – it’s what you make of it. Traditional funding channels will apply to a lot of the IIJA funding, but the balance requires agencies to actively compete for federal dollars. This competition creates an ideal opportunity for AEC professionals to support agencies in securing funding, delivering upon the promise of the IIJA for the economy and our built environment.