f that green "Project Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" sign on the side of the road is increasingly irksome, it's most likely because you sense deep down that whatever project it's associated with won't change much in the long term. It will keep some Transportation Department workers busy for a few weeks, but that's about it. Managing Editor Adam Bruns found the meaningful ARRA projects in terms of economic development in the course of researching his portion of the Global Infrastructure Report — the Cover Story of this issue. See the online version of the article for guides to such projects.
There is no shortage of plans that would bring about actual job growth and economic recovery, rather than mere signage. Perhaps the next Congress will find them of more interest than the present one. Back in the winter, for example, the Milken Institute released a study, Jobs for America: Investments and Policies for Economic Growth and Competitiveness, that is relevant here, given our discussion of infrastructure investment.
The report recommends investment of more than $425 billion in 10 project categories — highway and transit system, broadband infrastructure, onshore exploration and development/offshore drilling, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, smart grid, nuclear energy, renewable energy (solar, wind, biofuels), NextGen air traffic control system, inland waterways and clean coal technology. But it also calls for an overhaul of the tax structure. Combined, the sky's the limit. The full report is accessible at www.milkeninstitute.org.
Here are the recommendations and their economic impact:
These findings are conjecture; several months after they were put forth, they remain hypothetical. But one has to wonder what the economy would look like in late 2010 if something like this report's roadmap was in use. More to the point, how many site selectors would be choosing U.S. locations for new facilities rather than elsewhere, and how many jobs would those decisions create? Something to ponder next time a green-sign project has you stuck in traffic.