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Editorial: Transportation Coalition Fly-In / My 48 hours in Politics (by Harris President & CEO Kim Corwin)

[AH Harris & Sons, Inc. West Hartford, CT - April 2015]

On April 14 & 15 I participated in the annual Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In in Washington DC. I must say it was a unique experience; eye opening, mind reeling, impressive and also quite frustrating - all rolled in to some short 48 hours. I listened to Senators and State Representatives eloquently speak about the need for long-term infrastructure spending, but not one person had a plan that everyone is willing to agree on and support.

In one on one meetings I was repeatedly told that “we are aware of the need and understand the importance, but….”. The plain truth is that there are very few elected officials who are brave enough, bold enough, to propose a tax increase. In my mind, this is unacceptable. As a leader at AH Harris, I am often forced to make hard decisions, decisions that I make with the best interest of the associates and the company at the core. This does not make them easy, but they are necessary. Prior to making any decision, I do my homework to make sure I understand the consequences and the benefits. After my 2 days in Washington, I came to the conclusion everyone needs to do more homework, not only our elected officials, but you and me, us, the consumers, the voters included!

Current levels of infrastructure funding are not only inadequate, but because there is no long-term plan, they are also unreliable. There have been 22 (!) short-term extensions to the Highway Trust Fund since its inception, ranging in length from 6 months to 18 months. This is simply not enough time for DOT’s to engineer and design major projects. Maintaining status quo is not enough to turn around the nation’s failing grade on infrastructure, nor will it propel the US Economy toward growth and a competitive future. While competitive nations continue to invest in infrastructure spending, the United States is stuck in a decade long period of decline in overall capital spending in our infrastructure. This is harming job creation, future productivity and global competitiveness.

What can we do? We can support tax increases! I understand that nobody wants to pay more taxes; however, investing in our infrastructure not only pays for itself, it will benefit each and every one of us on multiple levels.

The Facts: Economic analysis exists that clearly demonstrates a targeted and long-term increase in public infrastructure investments from all public and private sources over the next 15 years will:

  • Increase jobs by almost 1.3 million
  • Grow real GDP 1.3% by 2020 and 2.9% by 2030
  • Create a more productive economy, which due to cumulative effects will benefit from a $3 return on every $1 invested in our infrastructure by 2030; and
  • Provide Americans an increase in take-home pay after taxes – a $1,300 net gain per household by 2020 and $4,400 per household by 2030

Source: Werling, Jeffrey and Ronald Horst (2014). Catching Up: Greater Focus Needed to Achieve a More Competitive Infrastructure. Washington DC: National Association of Manufacturers

Infrastructure spending must be a key priority for each of us. Passing a well-funded, multiyear surface transportation authorization and ensuring the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund is one important step.

What can you do? Spend 48 hours in Politics: Do your homework. Share the facts. Educate your co-workers, your families, your peers. Let your state representatives know that you will support raising taxes. Use your voice to send a message on the importance of a long-term solution. Demand Action! Visit DC, meet with your representatives.

Our political system is far from perfect, but it is ours and it is not only our right to use our voice, it is our responsibility.

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