Can’t Wait for Washington

Brent DezemberAt the conclusion of the NPCA 48th Annual Convention – nearly two weeks into the government shutdown – the Capitol Steps comedy troupe took to the stage with a set of satirical musical sketches that skewered Congress and made great fun of the inability of our elected officials to get anything done. They were hilarious! But in the light of day – back at the plant – government paralysis in Washington, D.C., is serious business.

The good news, at least in some states, is that governors, mayors and the private sector are taking matters into their own hands, realizing that they can’t wait for Washington to come up with a fix for the broken transportation funding scheme, and knowing they won’t be seeing any major infrastructure rebuilding initiatives coming down from Capitol Hill anytime soon. Here are a few examples of things happening around the country:

  • In Florida, a $1.5 billion privately financed project would create a 230-mile rail link between Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
  • In Arkansas, voter-approved bonds and a half-cent sales tax increase will fund 112 projects to the tune of $1.25 billion.
  • In Ohio, lawmakers got tired of transportation projects that were languishing in limbo because of stagnating gas tax revenue and federal highway funds. So the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission took a new approach, issuing $1 billion in bonds that will fund projects outside the toll-road corridor for the first time. Ten projects will total $930 million in highway and infrastructure improvements and create 65,000 jobs, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
  • In Los Angeles, the city increased taxes to fund a major new transportation network and a new airport terminal. Nobody likes a tax increase, but as Mayor Eric Garcetti said on one of the network morning talk shows, “We can’t wait on the state or the federal government. We’ve got to do it ourselves.”

I could go on. There are many examples of local solutions filling the vacuum created by inaction in Washington. What does that mean for the precast concrete industry? It means that we need to emphasize one of the core principles we’ve been talking about for years at the National Precast Concrete Association: Get closer to your customer.

We’ve all heard the Tip O’Neill quote, “All politics is local.” Well, that can be said about the precast concrete industry too. Whether you are bidding on public works or subbing for a privately funded commercial project with international backing or installing residential septic tanks, the relationships are often created and nurtured at the local level. So now is the time to look around your own back yard, reach out to your best customers and develop some new ones.

If you are in the precast industry, you will likely be hearing the phrase, “Take a New Look at Precast” in the coming months as NPCA launches a new marketing initiative. NPCA members will be adapting the “Take a New Look” campaign to their own marketing and sales plans while the association works on multiple fronts at the national level to persuade a wide variety of specifiers, engineers, architects, regulators, DOTs and the federal government to look into the nearly infinite possibilities of building with precast – both above-ground and underground. NPCA is getting closer to its customers too.

As the campaign gets off and running, we can also apply the message internally at our plants. We should all “Take a New Look at Precast.” Are we reaching the specifiers we need to reach? Have we persuaded any of those customers to spec precast rather than another material lately? Have we positioned ourselves as the local expert in all things precast? Have we brought any new products on line in the past six months? Have we adapted to the new post-Recession economy?

Ready to find out more? Check out and see the beginnings of the new high-tech, high-quality, highly innovative world of precast concrete. This is your first glimpse of what lies ahead for our industry, of how we will be “Building the Future” with precast!

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