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Guest on The Infra Blog: John Kissinger, President and CEO, GRAEF-USA, Inc.

Posted by Steve Anderson on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

John Kissinger on The Infra BlogJohn Kissinger has been the Chief Executive Officer of GRAEF-USA, Inc. since January 2012. Mr. Kissinger served as the Chief Operating Officer of GRAEF-USA, Inc. from March 16, 2010 to January 2012. Mr. Kissinger joined GRAEF in 1984 as a Structural Engineer in its Milwaukee office. Since that time, he held positions of increasing responsibility including Project Engineer, Project Manager, Principal, Vice President and Regional Vice President. Mr. Kissinger has been a Director of GRAEF-USA, Inc. since 2002.

GRAEF began as an individual partnership in 1961. The fledgling structural engineering firm was named Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer–Consulting Engineers. Today, GRAEF has grown to become a leading U.S. consulting firm, as ranked by Engineering News Record Magazine, and now employs 250 employees in six offices located in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida.

Infrastructure: The Big Picture
Everybody knows it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with, but they all think it’s somebody else’s responsibility to resolve it…It’s certainly making us less competitive, unfortunately. We had a big advantage in infrastructure for a long while and in some ways still do as a nation, but some of the infrastructure aged and other economies have risen in more recent years and have more modern infrastructure.

Other Social Issues Have Taken Precedence
Because we had such a robust infrastructure, I think that other problems were more pressing…I think as engineers sometimes things just seem very logical—this would seem very logical to take care of this infrastructure that there was such a large investment in to begin with—but there are a lot of emotional and political reasons why that doesn’t happen, and they tend to get discounted. I think the people who are interested in improving infrastructure need to understand that, and try to respond to that rather than dismiss it as illogical or something along those lines.

Are Engineers Honest?
Engineers have tried to play, and ideally they would play, the role of the honest broker that’s just giving people the information that could be relied upon to tell people where things really stand. ASCE has their report card, and I see it widely quoted in the press. I think there’s lack of trust in all institutions, and I do see more than when I maybe started in the business — people thinking, “Well, this is just a lobbying group like every other one that’s trying to feather their nest,” but I think the engineers in general, and ASCE in particular, tries to play that role of an honest broker that’s just analyzing and reporting on the problem.

Citizen Action: Understanding Before Engaging
Why don’t people offer their opinions so freely? I say that if you talk to people about a lot of things, some people will talk about it and others are quiet. But if you talk to people about dieting, everybody will give you advice because everybody at some point in their life has been on a diet, it seems. So there are certain things that people have a personal connection with. A lot of infrastructure, obviously, is unseen.

Our Generational Responsibility
I think it’s up to every generation to do something, and I think current generations have maybe fallen down a little bit there because they’ve had other priorities to spend the money on. I don’t know that it’s the fault of the millennials or the fault of the baby boomers, but definitely I think our generation has to look and say, “Well, we benefit from these things that have been done by previous generations, whether it’s the electric grid that was done 100 years ago, or the interstate freeway that was done 50 years ago, or the internet that was done 30 years ago, and we need to leave something behind.”

Download full transcript (PDF): John Kissinger on The Infra Blog

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