Infrastructure: How We Move Our Economy

Andrew Deerin

SignalCast sat down with senior executives Sam Whitehorn and Julie Hrdlicka to discuss the current state of infrastructure, the oft ignored but critically important way goods and services are delivered not only across the U.S. but across the world. It’s how we move our economy.

SIGNALCAST: Welcome to SignalCast, the podcast from Signal Group. Signal’s a bipartisan communication and advocacy firm located in Washington, D.C. As always, I’m your host, Andrew Deerin, Creative Director at Signal. Today I’m joined by two colleagues, Sam Whitehorn and Julie Hrdlicka to talk about all things infrastructure, the oft ignored but critically important way goods and services are delivered not only across the U.S., but across the world. It’s how we move our economy.

So first, Julie, what are the prospects the infrastructure debate raises its head in Congress this year?

JULIE HRDLICKA: I think relatively high. We’re already starting to hear some rumblings about the interests of the committees of jurisdiction having a focus on this and talking about conducting some oversight hearings. I think there’s a strong interest on both sides of the aisle to continue this debate. It was a debate that has been started since President Trump took office. It was obviously a key area of focus for him and his presidential campaign, and I think that infrastructure has always been a meat and potatoes issue for both parties. So I think it could prove to be an opportunity for when the Democratic side and also Republicans in the Senate remain focused on this issue.

SAM WHITEHORN: And I would add to that, it was also something that Democrats in Congress also engaged in right after the administration took office with their own sets of proposals, thinking that the two groups which were both targeting a package would be able to negotiate something up front in terms of priorities.

SC: So it sounds like there is going to be a focus on infrastructure. Do you think they’ll actually enact an infrastructure package this calendar year?

WHITEHORN: So, to Julie’s point, the committees have already started to hold hearings to look at all the issues surrounding infrastructure and continues to be “Topic A” amongst many of the top-tier politicians that are engaged. Whether or not we get this enacted will depend on a lot of factors, including how we pay for it. There’s a lot of policy issues to think about, but also the definition of infrastructure.

We used to think of that as roads and bridges and bridge collapses, which were really serious safety issues, but it’s broader than that. Particularly when you talk about Smart Cities – you talk about car’s connectivity, you talk about drones, you talk about all the different ways that our systems are changing to incorporate the new economies and the new technologies, which are disruptive in a lot of ways, but make sense in terms of efficiencies and driving new products into the system.

SC: So then to you both, in light of Sam’s point, how will this debate play out in terms of the 2020 election?

HRDLICKA: I think that it will remain a key cornerstone feature of any presidential campaign whether you’re Republican or Democrat. I think we all assume Trump will campaign again to keep the Presidency, and this will remain a key cornerstone issue for him.

I also think that from a Congressional standpoint, people will want to see this remain a key priority whether it’s enacted or not. So I think what is important for the companies and key stakeholders that are part of all the industries that will be a part of this debate this year and going forward, is that whatever happens now lays the foundation for the ultimate package that will get enacted, whether it’s this year, next year or post-2020.

WHITEHORN: And I agree with that. The interesting cross-section of all of this is if they do get a bill done, then the members run on that success next year. If they don’t get it done, then they run on the need to do it next year. Either way, this is an incredibly important topic to every community, to every mayor, to every city council, to every member of Congress as they look to go forward with all these different ways to think about infrastructure and deliver goods and services across the world.

For instance, we visited a town in Alaska. They didn’t have broadband, they didn’t have 5G. They wanted to set up a calling center. Without that kind of infrastructure, you can’t deliver jobs to rural communities or local communities. Everybody knows that that’s why this is such an important debate across the spectrum of issues and sectors.

SC: Well that’ll do it for today’s show. My thanks to Sam Whitehorn and Julie Hrdlicka for taking time to sit down with us and give us their thoughts on the future of infrastructure. To get in touch with us, check us out on the web at signaldc.com. For our entire production staff, I’m Andrew Deerin. We’ll see you next time.