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Why Infrastructure Investment Needs to be a National Priority

Posted by Deborah Wince-Smith on Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Deborah Wince-Smith, President & CEO, Council on CompetitivenessAmerica’s infrastructure challenges are undeniable. A sound and reliable infrastructure system plays a critical role in America’s fight to stay competitive, create jobs, build up our local economies, spur innovation- and enhanced quality of life.

But the challenges we face with our infrastructure is also a matter of public safety. By the time Memorial Day weekend comes to a close –more than 36 million Americans will have traveled across our nations failing roads, rails and runways.

All of these reasons are why the Council on Competitiveness, in partnership with nearly a dozen other leading business, labor and non-governmental organizations launched Infrastructure Week 2014. While our organizations may not agree on everything, we stand united in our belief that investing in America’s infrastructure must be seen as a national priority. 

Through planned activities, events and rallies –leaders of domestic and foreign businesses, manufacturers, workers and citizens came together to explore emerging solutions, innovative approaches and best practices being developed nationwide to modernize aging infrastructure.

You need only do a quick twitter check (#rebuildrenew) to see the thousands of messages that grew out of this important week. The hope is that our dire warning signals were seen and heard throughout the halls of Congress.

Here at the Council on Competitiveness, we are celebrating the ten year anniversary of our landmark National Innovation Initiative (NII) which has had a profound impact on the U.S. and abroad –helping to define the role of innovation in 21st century competitiveness. The NII defines three ‘key’ pillars of innovation; talent, investment and infrastructure. To raise the level of competitiveness means lifting all three pillars in unison.

Unfortunately, deteriorating bridges, water ways, ports and energy grids are lowering productivity across the U.S. and raising the cost of business and trade.

These challenges are inhibiting U.S. innovation and impair our most competitive industries. Take for instance cities and metro regions which accumulate the assets needed for innovation—talent, capital and technology. These areas attract highly educated workers and entrepreneurs who share and transfer knowledge and form networks humming with ideas, creativity and economic potential.

We need to leverage these assets to spur U.S. innovation and in turn our infrastructure and our economy. U.S. cities and metro areas need modern infrastructure—physical, transportation, water, digital and energy. Infrastructure and competitiveness cannot be separated.

Consider this: The United States ranks 19th in the world in terms of overall infrastructure quality. This means America’s infrastructure compares unfavorably with that of most advanced countries and even developing countries like Oman. We cannot afford to continue down this path any longer.

The U.S. receives an enormous return on infrastructure investments. Maintaining the status quo is not acceptable. America’s infrastructure underpins the U.S. economy. It is the thread that knits our great nation together. To compete in the global economy and raise our standard of living, we must renew and update America’s aging public infrastructure. Time is running out.

Deborah L. Wince-Smith is the President & CEO of the Council on Competitiveness (Council). Founded in 1986, this unique coalition of leading CEO’s, university presidents and labor union leaders puts forth actionable public policy solutions to make America more competitive in the global marketplace.

An internationally renowned, leading voice on competitiveness, innovation strategy, science and technology, and international economic policy, Ms. Wince-Smith has been credited with recharging the national debate on competitiveness, innovation and resilience. Ms. Wince-Smith is frequently called upon to testify in front of the U.S. Congress and appears regularly on global television news networks including Bloomberg, BBC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News.

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