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“Let’s Get America Building Again”

Just imagine for a moment that Congress and the White House find a permanent solution to their acrimonious disputes over budget cuts, sequestration and raising the debt ceiling. What would be the best issues for Congress and the White House to tackle in order to REALLY help the U.S. economy?

My professional association, the American Institute of Architects, would like to offer a few suggestions.

1. Help Small Businesses Create Jobs

Small businesses create jobs in every community, and architects are no exception. More than 97 percent of architecture firms employ 50 or fewer people; every project they design leads to job opportunities for millions of construction workers. But red tape, limited capital, and a complicated tax code hold them back. Congress needs to ensure that federal agencies work with small companies to help them succeed. More important, our small businesses need a simpler tax code that helps architecture firms grow without punitive tax increases.

2. Repair and Strengthen our Buildings

As millions of construction workers remain unemployed, buildings and vital infrastructure have crumbled, hurting our economy and endangering the public safety. Our nation’s infrastructure needs go beyond roads and bridges: millions of schools, hospitals and structures of every type are in desperate need of repair. Even the Capitol dome, a symbol of our democracy, is crumbling. Experience shows that the cost of putting off needed repairs is always more expensive over time. America needs sound policies that free up capital for private sector building projects, and new ways to invest in public sector buildings, providing jobs in the short term and a more competitive economy in the long run.

3. Build Sustainable, Resilient and Vibrant Communities

After years of economic turmoil and natural calamities, America’s communities are ready to rebuild. Homeowners and businesses are demanding the next generation of buildings that save energy, revitalize traditional main streets and reflect the new ways that Americans live, work and play. As Hurricane Sandy showed, we need to do far more to protect our communities from disaster. And with buildings accounting for more than 70 percent of the nation’s electricity use, we can do so much more to make our homes, offices, and schools use less energy. Congress and the White House need to reform outdated laws that hold back innovative development, encourage congestion and leave neighborhoods vulnerable to disaster and decay.

4. Reform Government to Build Better with Less

Governments need to tighten their belts while providing essential services the public demands. That means doing more, and doing it better, with fewer resources. But too many laws and regulations block innovative solutions that maximize return on investment. When it comes to buildings, Congress can make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely by reforming procurement rules so that architects can deliver projects that are safe, productive and sustainable.

5. Invest in the Next Generation of Design Leaders

Millions of young people aspire to help their communities build a better future – but a lack of opportunity and the crushing cost of education hold them back. As a result, the design and construction industry faces a severe shortage of talent, at exactly the moment we need to start rebuilding for the future. America can’t afford to lose a generation of talented design professionals, simply because they could not afford the cost of learning.

It goes without saying that getting anything done in Washington these days is a challenge, and none of us should think that the AIA’s agenda will pass easily – or even in one year. But if there is one thing that architects know first-hand, it’s how success  comes from having a positive vision, bringing people together to address challenges, and showing a whole lot of persistence.

John Smith is President of AIA Component, based in xx.

 

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