If you’ve ever had a close encounter with a deer, it likely occurred at twilight or after dark when the deer crossed the road and froze in the beams of your headlights. Five years into the construction depression we’ve been conditioned to freeze the same way whenever we hear about the economy.
The 24-hour news cycle has given us a cascading series of bad economic news every day since September of 2007, and now whenever we hear the words economy and recession, it creates a paralysis in our minds.
It’s like we’ve been conditioned to wait for some type of government action to come in and save the day. Though the details are not yet clear, President Obama is set to propose one of those “government saves the day” solutions in his Sept. 8 speech before Congress. Speculation is that he’ll propose a major jobs bill that would include an infrastructure bank and some sort of infrastructure rebuilding stimulus.
In theory, an infrastructure bank would cost $50 billion or $60 billion to set up, and that capital could be leveraged into a trillion dollar public-private infrastructure rebuilding program over the next decade. It would mean tens of thousands of new construction jobs and lots of work for precasters.
Well, unless the temperature just dropped below 32 degrees in hell, it ain’t gonna happen.
So maybe it’s time to quit paying attention to every report of gloom, doom and Congressional gridlock and take stock. If you’re still in business right now and you’ve made the necessary tough decisions and kept your company going, maybe you’re not doing that badly. Instead of waiting and waiting for a government fix that’s not likely to come, maybe it’s time to refocus on core competencies and making business decisions based on sound business principles.
Maybe it’s time for municipalities to stop waiting around for Big Brother to send down some stimulus money and devise their own creative financing for infrastructure projects. Maybe it’s time for banks and businesses to get out of the fetal position and quit hording cash while they wait for some additional government tax breaks or wait for consumers to start spending again. Perhaps if banks would start lending – not recklessly, but in a disciplined way – maybe the commercial sector would start creeping forward, construction would pick up, more people would get back to work, and they’d start the spending that would break the cycle.
Look at it this way: You’re in the middle of a deep lake. You have two options – tread water and wait for somebody to rescue you, or look for the distant shore and start swimming toward it. I don’t know about you, but I’m swimming for the shore.
If we’re going to shake out of this economic malaise, it’s the private sector that’s going to have to provide the push. You’ve seen what’s happening in Washington. You think they’re going to do it? In some ways the precast industry is held captive to these circumstances because precasters don’t usually start projects, they provide products for projects. But even at your own company level it’s a good exercise to be aware of that deer in the headlights syndrome that all the negative media has caused and find ways to stay positive and keep moving forward like so many successful precasters are doing right now. If not, you’re liable to be road kill.
President, National Precast Concrete Association