Global Infrastructure spending is forecasted to rise substantially in coming years, with many governments, including those in Canada and the United States, pledging billions of dollars in infrastructure growth, repair and replacement.
Kryton’s President and CEO, Kari Yuers, sat down with Concrete Construction Magazine Editor Bill Palmer at the CCLive booth during World of Concrete 2016 in February. They discussed global infrastructure needs and how the promised funds can impact the concrete industry.
BP: “Kari, what do you see as the current problems or needs we have within our infrastructure systems in North America?”
KY: “Well, I don’t think it’s any secret that we have some infrastructure challenges, with regard to aging infrastructure. I think that every year for the last three decades people have been trying to draw attention to the fact that need to not just invest money into new infrastructure, but we also need to take care of the aging infrastructure that we already have. It’s definitely something that we need to pay attention to, but it is a little frustrating, as you know, that we hear people say during election times that we need to put all of this money towards it, but they’ve been saying that for a long time – we really need to take action.”
BP: “What do you see, is there anything being done to address this? Are there various states or localities doing some new things?”
KY: “You know, I think it’s an interesting time because of the US election, and we’ve just finished our Canadian election, as you know I’m from Vancouver, Canada, and we have a new Prime Minister who’s platform was infrastructure spending, and so they’ve pledged hundreds of billions of dollars for infrastructure spending over the next ten years. I think that one of the things that we need to pay attention to is the model of how that spending comes to be, that is – it’s one thing to pledge the money, but if the systems, or the procedures aren’t in place to make sure that money gets to where it needs to be, then we’re not going to get it built. A case in point in Canada is that we have a third, a third, a third approach to it where the federal, provincial and municipal or city governments must each come up with a third of the money. Which is fine for the feds or the province, but if the city or the municipality has no way to raise money other than to raise taxes, then we end up with that same problem again. I think that on a global basis, we really have to pay attention to how we need to address this because there is in fact spending that’s going to happen because we have cities growing in developed areas, we have a growing population booming, but we also have aging infrastructure. So I think that it’s a safety issue, and it’s a cost issue because, as you know, everything escalates when you start getting corrosion, and then it becomes not just a maintenance program – but a replacement program, which increases the cost t everybody.
So I think there are definitely examples of that booming happening, like in India where the metro system going in there is probably one of the biggest in the world, but it’s addressing the needs of a booming population growth in a developing country.”
BP: “I know there has been some discussion in the US elections about infrastructure, but not as much as I would have liked to have heard, a little bit, but I don’t know where we would go to develop the pressure needed to do this – it’s very frustrating.”
KY: “It’s an age-old problem, actually a fellow who was a part of the ACI (American Concrete Institute) 212 Committee back in 1991 – James Whyte – he was noting that it’s a $20 Trillion problem, back in then! Skip ahead to 2011, and we’re still talking about it being a $20 Trillion problem. I think they’re estimating it to be a $130 Billion a year problem – Obama said that in 2011. I mean, we get the sound bytes, but I think it comes down to, unless the voters make it an ongoing issue with their elected officials, I mean it’s just not the “sexy” topic that elections build around, you know?”
BP: “I guess it’s not. Do you see in other countries that there’s more pressure to improve the infrastructure?”
KY: “You know, I think in developing areas, they recognize the need to have the infrastructure to facilitate the growth. I think people, like the World Economic Forum, they estimate that for every dollar that goes into capital spending, it’s a return of 5-25% in economic benefits and growth. I think a lot of countries recognize that that helps fuel a nation, so some of the benefits are certainly, we put people to work, we get jobs, certainly the concrete industry has a huge opportunity to benefit because concrete is the major building material in the world. Even more so outside of North America – it’s the major material. And so, when we can talk about helping build durable, long-term structures – and concrete is probably one of the best materials to do that with – then I think people see that economic growth and value into the economy right away, and then long-term, we get that return on our investment. So I think it’s a win-win when it’s done correctly and thoughtfully with materials like concrete.”