Editorial

Infrastructure woes cripple economic growth

August 8, 2014
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Following last week’s overwhelming voter support for state Proposition 1 in all 83 counties, the Business Journal emphasizes the unfinished business of infrastructure investment in Michigan. 

It is necessary for the business community to relentlessly pursue vacationing legislators with united purpose to reconsider and redraft funding proposals for the state’s horribly deteriorating roads and bridges. The legislative cowardliness for solutions stops now. The Business Journal notes the bipartisan support of Prop 1 and emphasizes once again: Michigan citizens and businesses are equally united in this effort. 

Leadership on this issue will certainly be top of mind when voters head to the polls in November as another winter besets the state. The Business Journal cites the repeated emphasis by Gov. Rick Snyder to legislators that the cost of repairing the state’s roads and bridges continues to escalate along with the problems.

In fact, the issue is not just related to road and highway repair, the lack of which is costing Michigan businesses millions of dollars. It is the whole of infrastructure: decaying roads, power lines and electric grids; technology infrastructure; even water supply lines now 100 years old or more.

Continued neglect is shameful enough, but the very ability of businesses to grow and function is gravely compromised. This also must be an issue of local and county discussion.

While Snyder and Business Leaders for Michigan president and CEO Doug Rothwell also have noted the additional infrastructure needs (including shipping issues), it must be given priority. The upcoming West Michigan Policy Conference gives business leaders the opportunity.

The issue of infrastructure decay was emphasized in Business Journal discussion with the chief investment officer at Fifth Third Bank’s asset management division in Grand Rapids, Mitch Stapley, and with Sridhar Sundaram, associate dean of GVSU Seidman College of Business. PBS affiliate WGVU also broadcast the discussion on its West Michigan Week program. Sundaram noted during the broadcast, “When you look at the broad sense … the demand for utilities and electricity is going to be significant, the demand to support the growth of the economy.” Stapley added, “That’s the kind of fundamental investment we have to make and if you … keep putting it off, it only gets more expensive and more impactful. We have woefully underinvested and it will come back to choke off economic growth at some point in the future.”

Stapley also said, “This is something, whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Tea Party, a 100-year-old water supply has to be replaced. How can we not get behind something as fundamental as that?”

Indeed.

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