Commentary: Improving Infrastructure Improves Economy

Commentary: Improving Infrastructure Improves Economy

Serious infrastructure improvements are necessary to grow Virginia’s economy and will be a focus of mine in the upcoming General Assembly session. Investments in infrastructure create many thousands of well-paying jobs that cannot be offshored. I have seen estimates that for every $1 billion invested in transportation construction projects, like the Richmond HIghway widening project and expanded Metro, creates upward of 25,000 jobs.

Moreover, our infrastructure is in need of major investment, repair and basic maintenance. Our energy and transportation needs are evolving. We need to face these challenges head on with legislative initiatives that are innovative and focus on modernizing and repairing roads, bridges, public transit, schools, energy and the electrical grid, and even water systems. We must increase Virginia’s infrastructure investment to fuel a first-class economy.

That is how we attract companies like Amazon and its 50,000 jobs. Indeed, a serious investment in infrastructure will have a “multiplier effect” on the region’s economy, benefiting employment, GDP, worker incomes, more transportation options, consumer activity, public health and safety, tax revenues and our state’s overall competitiveness.

We should continue to leverage public-private investments in capital-construction projects and project-labor agreements to create structured, specialized career-training opportunities for Virginia’s workers, so that well-trained workers are able to provide for their families and complete projects safely, on-time and under-budget.

We can’t rebuild crumbling infrastructure with untrained workers. If we want roads, bridges, power grids, green energy like solar and wind, sewer and water systems, and schools that last for decades, we need highly-trained, skilled workers who can deliver safe, quality projects on time and on budget. That means making Project Labor Agreements/Community Labor Agreements the standard for all capital-investment projects using taxpayer funds so we can get the best value for what we pay.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Virginia a C- for its average infrastructure rating. Virginia’s infrastructure is aging and affects Virginia’s quality of life, the safety of its citizens and its economic well-being. With the proper investment, leadership and planning we can meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century, including a balanced energy portfolio including more renewables and “smart-grid” investments in that sector.

We will know we have succeeded in improving our infrastructure when the investment begins to pay for itself through best-value savings, and a stronger, healthier economy that gives us the quality of life we deserve in the Commonwealth of Virginia.