Issues & AdvocacyFederal
Monday, October 25, 2010
Try Three-Pronged Approach To Creating Jobs
By Tymn Waters
As we enter the final week before the 2010 midterm elections, the prognosticators and political pundits are busy talking political strategy, not issues of substance. The daily polls about whether Congress will or won't change hands, the constant attention to who is up and who is down and the preoccupation by the media for "form over substance" all contribute to the disaffection the public feels toward the political campaign process.
The overriding concern of voters is not who wins and who loses. It's about how and when the next Congress will act on policy to encourage job creation and sustainability for the public.
It is the collective view of my profession that economic growth and the drive to rebuild our struggling communities go hand in hand. They are a recipe for new job opportunities in one of the most job-creating industries – the design and construction business. So let's take a look at some of the initiatives that would create jobs in our profession and elsewhere and should be pursued in the next Congress – no matter which party takes control.
Access to credit. By far the biggest complaint by the business community is the inability for businesses that invest in their communities through responsible development and construction to get financing for projects. Granted, banks have imposed stricter lending guidelines for borrowers in the wake of the disastrous credit bubble, but that's no reason why creditworthy borrowers should suffer. Two bills introduced last session merit attention. H.R. 5249, the Capital Access for Main Street Act of 2010, introduced by Reps. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., and Mike Coffman, R-Colo, would help lenders and borrowers as they attempt to work out their loans under terms that are mutually acceptable, avoid large sums of commercial foreclosures, and free up credit that can be used more constructively. H.R. 4884, the United States Covered Bond Act of 2010, introduced by Reps. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., and Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., promotes covered bonds, a type of bond that is far less risky than other kinds of investments, that can attract investors back into the real estate market and assist worthwhile projects in finding the financing they need.
Promote green retrofits. With buildings and their construction accounting for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumed in this country, cutting that consumption as well as creating jobs seems like a "no-brainer." That's why S. 3935, the Advanced Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2010, would make for good public policy. The legislation, introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, calls for a comprehensive package of advanced energy tax incentives that will create thousands of clean-energy and manufacturing jobs; enable American businesses and families to make long-term energy savings investments; reduce greenhouse gases; and increase U.S. energy security. The act focuses broadly on building and industrial energy efficiency; domestic manufacturing; emerging clean energy technologies; and carbon mitigation. The sponsors are working to have this bill passed before Congress adjourns in December.
Promote livable communities. As more Americans tire of suburban sprawl and traffic jams, real estate developers have seized on that trend and are targeting areas near mass transit for development. The Livable Communities Act, introduced in August 2009 by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., provides funding for community planning grants and establishes HUD office of sustainable communities. This legislation would represent a major start in encouraging communities to adopt policies that promote less reliance on automobile use and more reliance on mass transit.
These are the issues and some solutions my profession would like to offer as a starting point for the next Congress to enact to get the economy truly moving forward. The AIA Architecture Billings Index (ABI), a leading economic indicator of construction activity, increased for the third straight month in August. While the increase is positive, it reflects a soft economic recovery and a continued decline in demand for design services.
We can do much better than that.
From the Executive's Desk
NAME: Tymn Waters, AIA
COMPANY: New Mexico Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.