Washington D.C. – As America contends with the growing need to build and maintain our critical infrastructure and the lack of government funding to do it, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is bringing together top executives from some of the nation’s leading companies to explore ways to bridge that gap. BPC is announcing today the establishment of a new Executive Council on Infrastructure that aims to identify measures to encourage private investment in infrastructure and promote economic growth.
Reflecting the importance infrastructure has on business and the broader economy, the council will convene corporate CEOs and other executives representing a range of industries, including leaders from McGraw Hill Financial, American Water, California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), FedEx Freight, KPMG LLP, Meridiam, Siebert Brandfort Shank & Co., LLC, and Xylem Inc. It will be co-chaired by Douglas Peterson, president and chief executive of McGraw Hill Financial, and Susan Story, president and chief executive of American Water.
“Even though government will continue to play an important role supporting our nation’s critical infrastructure, there is simply not enough federal and state funding available to make sure our transit systems, shipping hubs, and water facilities meet the needs of the 21st Century,” said Peterson. “America will be increasingly reliant on private sector investment in infrastructure. The business community has both an interest and obligation to identify ways to overcome the barriers keeping billions of dollars of private capital on the sidelines.”
Over the next year, the council plans to hold several public and private meetings as they develop recommendations designed to bring additional private sector investment into infrastructure. The council will also develop educational materials, such as an infographic released today, highlighting the causes of the growing infrastructure funding gap. BPC will assist in the council’s work, culminating with the release of a white paper in the first half of 2016.
“Between the real-world experience of our members and BPC’s political know-how, this council is uniquely situated to develop proposals that can complement the important actions of the public sector,” said Story, who is also a BPC board member.
Added Mike Ducker, chief executive of FedEx Freight: “We need to redefine the infrastructure debate so that everyone understands what’s at stake. It’s not simply about longer passenger commutes and inconvenient traffic jams, but about protecting commerce and our economy.”
The council plans to consult with a range of infrastructure stakeholders, including engineering and construction firms, labor, manufacturers, suppliers, users, and financing experts. It will explore measures that aim to improve the transparency, standardization, and accuracy of project information and assess the potential for infrastructure to become a tradable asset, like stocks or bonds. It also hopes to identify current legal and regulatory barriers to private investment and explore ways to address them.
“Bringing a diverse range of perspectives to the equation, we believe we can find creative and innovative private and public sector solutions to bridge the growing infrastructure funding gap,” said Jack Ehnes, chief executive of CalSTRS.
Patrick Decker, president and chief executive of Xylem Inc, noted the critical skills that council members bring. “As business leaders, we are accustomed to seeking out innovative ideas to drive progress,” Decker said. “Working together, we will bring a pragmatic approach to identifying new ways to finance all types of critical infrastructure.”
The council will also benefit from the advice of a bipartisan panel of former elected officials, who will provide insight on the political feasibility of any recommendations.
“Any serious answer to solving the issue of America’s aging infrastructure should include state and local governments working with the private sector in innovative ways; together, we can rise to this challenge,” said Suzanne Shank, president and chief executive of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., LLC.
Added Jane Garvey, North American chairman of Meridiam and a BPC board member: “The private sector can bring skills, as well as the long-term commitment necessary to seed major infrastructure projects.”
Members of the council will kick off their work with a May 7 panel discussion at the BPC that will highlight current challenges in infrastructure financing. The executives may also host meetings outside Washington as well as participate in other high-profile events, such as an Infrastructure Week forum on May 12 co-hosted by McGraw Hill Financial and the BPC.
“A modern and reliable infrastructure is essential for economic growth and public safety, and to ensure America’s continued global economic competitiveness,” said P. Scott Ozanus, KPMG LLP’s deputy chairman and chief operating officer.