I have a confession to make. I’m a theater geek. I was fortunate to have grown up near a community theater (a theater in a barn — on a working farm), and I caught the acting bug at a young age. Musicals, straight shows, drama, comedy, mystery — you name it, I love performing it. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of standing in a spotlight!
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had time to do theater, so it was a thrill to participate in the 2017 Washington Summit and be the voice for a center-stage, spotlight issue: rebuilding America’s infrastructure. NUCA Summit attendees did a great job of making sure the white-hot spotlight shined on underground utility infrastructure. We did not wait in the wings and let roads, rails, ports and airports steal the show!
We have a story to tell. It is a compelling story of great consequence and great opportunity: Ignoring the nation’s failing underground infrastructure will certainly create problems and could result in tragedy, but investing in underground infrastructure will have a robust, positive influence on our country and economy. With any increase in investment, the need for a qualified and trained workforce will also rise. But we can’t put Americans into good paying jobs if they don’t have access to federally supported technical education and training. Nor can our well-trained workforce efficiently implement new infrastructure investment unless our legislators ease and streamline regulations that currently slow the flow of dollars, increase the time it takes to complete projects and drive up costs.
Act I of the Washington Summit began with our Federal Issues Conference and Legislative Briefing, where we heard from some of the most knowledgeable and influential people who can influence infrastructure-related policy and funding. They helped us prepare our script — making the case for the benefits of a robust and comprehensive investment in infrastructure: the return on investment for adequate funding and financing, public health and safety, job creation and economic development. In Act II, NUCA members took the message to Capitol Hill to promote our narrative. We truly are advocacy stars because we face these issues on (or in our case, under) the ground every day, whereas our legislators and congressional aides do not. At times, improv skills were required — like when I found myself standing in an elevator with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao or when Ditch Witch’s Gary Lawson and Marty Piel bumped into John McCain and Ted Cruz in a Senate hallway. The Washington Summit is a live show, and you never know what might happen!
The most exciting part is still to come as Act III unfolds before our eyes in the coming months. The Beltway Show may be over, but you can still go to www.nuca.com and click on the Advocacy tab where you will find a Summit follow-up letter you can send directly from the website. And, coming soon to local venues is the touring production, entitled “NUCA August Recess Challenge — the Musical” (just kidding, you don’t have to dance and sing, but if you get a video we can put it on social media — ha!). The month-long congressional recess (July 28-September 4) will provide an opportunity to put your lawmaker on stage at your office, at a jobsite or a chapter meeting to show their support or explain why they oppose our priorities. The time to plan for the NUCA August Recess Challenge is NOW! Contact your elected officials’ local offices and inquire about local events you can attend. Invite your elected officials to a chapter roundtable pertaining to our industry’s issues. Invite them to your jobsites. They’ll love the photo-op of them in costume — hard hats, safety vests and safety glasses!
Who will win the NUCA OSCAR (Overall Star Chapter of August Recess)? Break a leg!
Keep the show going and always be #NUCAproud.
NUCA Chairwoman of the Board
L.G. Roloff Construction Co. Inc.
email@example.com | Twitter: @KaraHabrock | LinkedIn: Kara Habrock