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Many hands make light work

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​With the help of Case, American communities are giving voice to concerns about local infrastructure, raising funds and securing improvement projects without burdensome extra taxes​

​​​By Sophy Buckley

President Elect Trump has promised some $500bn to rebuild America’s ailing, aging infrastructure. But according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, it needs $3.6tn by 2020.

Clearly, there’s a gap between what is seen as affordable by the state and what is actually required. And even if there weren’t a gap, rebuilding such a vast country’s infrastructure cannot be done overnight. As a result, industry, business and private citizens face having their day-to-day activities adversely affected by inadequate and sometimes dangerous infrastructure that will continue to deteriorate.

This isn’t a new problem. In 2007, a bridge over the Mississippi collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 and injuring 145 people. Although it brought the sorry state of US infrastructure to the front pages along with calls for more investment, bridges are still collapsing, killing people.

Investing in infrastructure makes sense. Infrastructure is the backbone of a vibrant economy, and creating and maintaining it creates wealth, jobs, and value. If the current spending systems can’t accommodate it, we must work on new systems that will.

This is the thinking behind the Dire States advocacy program, sponsored by Case Construction Equipment. Now in its fourth year, the program aims to help communities get to grips with the issues in order to secure funds for improvement projects. It’s about everyone pitching in to get the job done. There have been a number of notable successes.

In Pennsylvania, Act 89 secured an increase in road user fees to generate up to $2.4bn in new revenues by year five to be spent on transport; Proposition 1 in Texas diverted $1.17bn from the state’s rainy day fund to transport projects (the rainy day fund is made up of taxes paid by oil and gas companies operating in Texas); a $500m EPA grant became $2bn thanks to a successful investment strategy, and that fund is now available for state-wide water projects in Arizona; and in Wisconsin, fees generated by the transport system are now ring fenced for transport and cannot be diverted to other uses.

Dire states also supported a letter sent to Congress from the Beyond the Runway Coalition, of which Case is a member, supporting a call for federal policies to strengthen the country’s aviation infrastructure, making it fit for purpose.

Athena Campos, senior director of marketing for Case Construction Equipment, says it’s a win-win. “Clearly equipment manufacturers will benefit from bigger budgets and more infrastructure projects but so does business and the local population. We can bring our skills in communications to help local communities understand the issues and support the right solutions. We’re a bridge between the politicians and the local communities.”

Local communities are the key to success, according to Campos. Indeed, she’s adamant that it is not up to Case to drive the projects – it’s the local businesses, leaders and citizens that must take ownership to ensure the projects are successful.

“When we look at getting involved our first filter is geography and alignment with Case dealers who will bring passion. Where there is a need and an example of someone able to take ownership we will then develop a plan,” she says. “We will always look for people on the ground with passion. They must own the message and build the relationships.”

The plan focuses on public relations. “It’s about advocacy,” she explains. “Everyone has strong cases for state dollars. But infrastructure is often seen as unsexy and loses out to other more attractive projects like schools and hospitals. It’s not until there’s a tragedy that infrastructure comes top of mind. But then it’s too late. We need to stop that.”

With Case’s involvement, the arguments can be brought to life so people understand them. For example, it sponsored infrastructure expert and author Dan McNichol to tour the US in a 1949 Hudson Commodore Eight, built in the same year as many of the country’s bridges and roads. Old, rusty and energy deficient, the Hudson had much in common with the problems it was highlighting, helping to move them up the agenda.

More recently, Case has supported Wisconsin Transportation Development Association’s Just Fix It campaign, which aims to bring infrastructure up the agenda ahead of the state’s next biennial budget.

A great example is the public private partnership struck up between Case, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, and Team Rubicon, a veteran-powered disaster response organization. The partnership helps work on refuges in four states, and their work resulted in Team Rubicon being the beneficiary of this year’s Labor of Love music festival.

The Dire States program has achieved much, but its work is not over. It will be a sustained effort, a way of life, promises Campos. It’s about making a difference at the local level, sometimes when it’s only a question of a few thousand dollars. To this end, Case will be donating $25,000 in equipment rental to help complete a community project.

“We believe it is inherently the right thing to do for our customers and industry,” she says, conceding that it takes up a “significant” proportion of the overall marketing budget.

“We’re a really small, nimble organization but we’ve made a commitment and we’re making a difference. It’s an investment for Case and it’s significantly more than writing a check – it’s having a team to support infrastructure in multiple ways. I’m really proud it’s making a huge difference to business and people within that locality. That feels great.”