Daniel Speer visited three clients of his home remodeling company in and around Washington, D.C. and spent an average of 15-30 minutes in conversations with each client. However, the total time spent in those three visits was more than six hours, due to poor road conditions, aging infrastructure and traffic.
Speer says his daily challenge “makes it difficult to do business” which is also felt by small businesses across the United States, according to results of the most recent MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index.
In the survey, 1,001 small business owners in all 50 states were asked about their views on American infrastructure, including highways, railroads, roads, ports, communications, and Internet infrastructure. The input was not good as most respondents see local transportation as average at best, with many considering America’s infrastructure as “definitely poor”.
About half of small businesses worry that infrastructure, which is strategically critical to business operations, is falling behind competing nations. The respondents consider improvements to local transportation systems (mass transit, highways, local roads, and bridges) as more important to success than national transportation systems like railroads, airports, ports and harbors.
America’s transportation infrastructure in the 1900s was the envy of the world. Now, much of it has reached the end of its lifespan while other countries are adding modern, 21st-century infrastructure that incorporates new, emerging technologies such as 5G, sensors, autonomous vehicles, and drones.
These technologies are the modern and faster ways to help link delivery systems, rails, ports, highways and public transportation.
So, what should policymakers prioritize?
The Index shows that small-business owners consider high-speed internet as a priority. Next up is improvement for roads (69 percent), highways (44 percent), bridges (30 percent), and mass transit (25 percent).
In its “2017 Infrastructure Report Card,” the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure a D+, with the transit sector getting a D-. ASCE estimates that neglecting the infrastructure gap will cost the U.S. economy $7 trillion by 2025- losses that are not included in government end-of-year report, or in business balance sheets.
The U.S. Chamber suggests that the federal government enact a 21st-century infrastructure modernization plan that will enable all American businesses to compete and win in an increasingly high-tech, globalized economy. Each year of delay makes small businesses suffer due to lost productivity.
The U.S. Chamber has put forward these four key recommendations for rebuilding America’s infrastructure: a modest increase in the federal motor vehicle fuel user fee; greater public and private investment; streamlining America’s permitting process and taking steps to address the shortage of skilled workers.
The infrastructure problem is not a partisan issue. American’s small businesses are looking at the policymakers and the federal government for a solution.