What The Stimulus Brings

The stimulus posturing, debating and finagling is now over, a done deal. The dye is cast as to how the money is being allocated; now states/agencies begin the mad dash to grab their fair share of the money. About the only thing undecided at the Federal level is who is going to pay for all this . . .

The good news for our market is that it will receive $6 billion. The bad news is that amount is down from the $10-12 billion originally suggested by numerous groups, including the president.

Our Washington D.C. Editor Stephen Barlas is a veteran to the politics and inner-workings of our nation’s capital. His report on the final stimulus package as it relates to the underground infrastructure is comprehensive, gets to the core of the plan and is void of political spin and self-serving interpretations that you may be hearing. In short, to quote Dragnet’s Joe Friday, our report reflects “just the facts, ma’am.” His article this month concentrates on the sewer/water market and in April he’ll examine other areas of underground construction that should receive a major spending boost in the near future. See page XX.

Basically, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund will be authorized to allocate more than four times what states have been getting. But what really makes the money attractive is that the typical 20 percent local match requirement has been waived. There are also caveats in the bill that allow the funds to be applied without the usual restrictions.

States are supposed to be generating priority lists to disperse the funds within 12 months. In fact, if a project is not ready to launch within 12 months, states are supposed to cancel and shift the funds to another project that is ready to go. For a change, the federal government is really in a hurry; what a twist.

Some industry groups were concerned about repercussions from the “Buy American” provision of the stimulus package. However, as Barlas explains, our favored trading partners are already exempt from the provision and the president has a lot of flexibility to the degree that some observers believe the “Buy American” provision won’t be much of a road block.

Of course, some of the $6 billion will go for treatment, processing, etc. Still, the portion going to the underground piping infrastructure market for this year will dramatically change the market landscape. Assuming just half of the money gets allocated in 2009, that means the pendulum will have swung from a projected 4.1 percent decrease in spending to an almost 9 percent increase. And 2010 should experience a similar upswing in spending and construction. With any luck, our industry should actually thrive while waiting for good times to return.

Is your organization or company prepared to take advantage of this reversal of fortune?

Passing Of Industry Giants

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of two well-known industry figures, nothing shorts of icons to the underground construction industry.

Gary Vermeer, founder and chairman emeritus of Vermeer Corporation, died Feb. 2, in Pella, IA. He was 90. Then, two weeks later, distribution construction magnate Harold J. Mueller, 82, passed away in Tampa, FL.

That these two men will be missed in an understatement. Both had gentle ways but were firm in their resolve, brilliant in their execution and respected for all their accomplishments. They had an unparalleled commitment to family, community and industry. These two men touched our industry in a positive fashion that has become all too rare.

Though lost, they will be remembered; though gone, their legacy lives on.

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