The importance of infrastructure to the economic vitality of our region was the topic of a highly informative virtual program on Thursday that launched the BCW’s new State of the Economy. The program featured a panel of experts who discussed infrastructure ranging from deteriorating roads and bridges to the expansion of broadband and other technologies.
Panelists included John Cooney, Jr., Executive Director of the Construction Industry of Westchester and the Hudson Valley; Michael Elmendorf, President of the Association of General Contractors New York State; Hugh J. Greechan, Jr., Commissioner of the Westchester Department of Public Works; Bob Knight, Co-chair of the Public Officials Committee, Fiber Broadband Association; and Ed Mortimer, Vice President, transportation and infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. BCW Executive VP and COO John Ravitz was the moderator.
Mortimer described infrastructure as the best opportunity for government investment since the Great Recession. He told attendees that the federal government must present a blueprint for transportation investments. “We look at infrastructure as the circulatory system of economic growth and opportunity in this country,” he said.
Elmendorf said New York’s leaders are already considering infrastructure projects tied to Gov. Cuomo’s executive budget proposal, but that more attention needs to be paid to basic maintenance. “The investment in the nuts and bolts of our transportation infrastructure….is actually the lowest it’s been in five or six years,” he said.
Knight explained that broadband projects are emerging nationwide, but in the Northeast Corridor there is a lagging installation of fiber. “We don’t have last-mile fiber. 5G needs to hook into fiber in order to move the tremendous amount of data that’s generated. If you don’t have fiber connectivity, you don’t really have the full capacity of 5G,” he explained.
Greechan said that County Executive George Latimer prioritized infrastructure because of the county’s $1.3 billion backlog of capital improvement projects. County officials also lifted a borrowing cap for public works projects, combined road and bridge projects to speed their completion.
Cooney described his organization’s work on infrastructure and its partnership with unions, business, environmentalists and local officials to promote public works investments. The group has also lobbied to repair Westchester County’s aging sewers to improve local water quality. “Infrastructure spending keeps our region, competitive, our communities healthy and it grows jobs,” he said.
The State of the Economy series is the latest thought-leadership initiative launched by the BCW in response to the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. Future programs will focus on Health Care (March 10), Education (April 7) and Hospitality & Retail (May 5). Attendees may register at thebcw.org.