Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Business

Trigaux: Tampa Bay needs to step up as Donald Trump follows in Obama's footsteps by prepping infrastructure package

Worried the troubled U.S. economy needed a serious kick-start, the new U.S. president and his team decided on a bold and expensive fiscal stimulus plan to invest quickly and heavily in the aging infrastructure of America.

The hope: that repaving roads and rebuilding bridges, ports and public transit would not only provide lots of good paying jobs but also spark private investment to accelerate and lift the entire economy.

That was the precise strategy pursued by newly inaugurated President Barack Obama in 2009 when an $800 billion stimulus package passed early that year amid an ongoing Wall Street collapse and a burst housing bubble.

Now in these early days after this November election, it looks likely President Donald Trump in early 2017 will unveil a similar plan to revive a sagging national infrastructure and, with luck, rev the engine of America's gross national product.

Trump's tentative plan would call for investing from $500 billion up to as much as $1 trillion over the next decade. His goal: to double economic growth, put millions back to work and, as he said in his victory speech this past Wednesday, make America's infrastructure "second to none."

We're past due. Last year the average age of the nation's infrastructure had reached 22.8 years, the oldest in data going back to 1925.

How might Florida — the nation's third most populated state whose 29 electoral votes went to Trump in the election — and the Tampa Bay area benefit from a national infrastructure stimulus?

It's time to get our act together.

When Obama pushed his infrastructure plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Tampa Bay's unemployment rate was a painful 8.1 percent and heading even higher.

Across Tampa Bay, political and economic development leaders scrambled to come up with a list of so-called "shovel ready" projects in the region that the federal stimulus package could help make happen. The Tampa Bay Partnership at the time tallied about 350 potential area projects costing $4.8 billion, and attempted to devise a pecking order of those that should take priority.

Some of those projects at the time included the I-4 Crosstown Connector Project aimed at rerouting truck traffic from Port Tampa Bay directly to nearby interstates, and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's desire to build a Bus Rapid Transit Line along Central Avenue in St. Petersburg.

The Obama effort accomplished some things but suffered from political infighting in Congress and general bureaucracy. Those projects that did happen were ultimately credited with saving 2 million U.S. jobs amid the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Obama's stimulus package had also designated $8 billion for the development of a high-speed intercity passenger rail system. That would include a bullet train linking Tampa and Orlando — a project later shot down by Rick Scott, Florida's newly elected governor.

Seven years ago, Obama's infrastructure plan was up against a major financial collapse, soaring jobless rates, a housing market that in Florida would leave millions in foreclosure and a nation suffering deep doubts and low confidence.

What does Trump face by comparison?

The U.S. unemployment rate hovers near 5.1 percent, while the rate in Florida and Tampa Bay is even lower at 4.7 percent.

Housing prices are strong again and still rising while interest rates and inflation are extremely low.

One measure has changed little in Florida. Job quality still lags and area wages continue to trail the national average. But overall, these economic factors add up to a reasonably strong picture for the country and Florida.

Yet Trump won the presidential race because he sees the country's GNP as underperforming. He argues too many jobs are still lost to overseas markets. And some of the hardest hit, blue collar parts of the country are in need of fresh hope, new investment and a more equitable playing field with international competitors.

Hence Trump's call for a rapid adoption of a massive infrastructure renewal effort soon after he takes office in January.

With Republicans controlling both the House and Senate and — perhaps — a willingness to get off on the right foot with Trump after a rancorous campaign, a fiscal stimulus package may win quick approval.

It may not be a slam dunk. Already, more conservative groups are criticizing Trump's job-creation claims for such plans, just as they argued against the benefits of Obama's stimulus package.

Whether Florida or Tampa Bay will rank high on Trump's list of priority projects is anyone's guess at this point.

The fact that Gov. Scott loves to remind the world that Florida leads the nation in job growth could be a signal to a Trump administration that other parts of the country are in greater need of fiscal stimulus than the Sunshine State.

Still, here's a suggestion for Tampa Bay. Get a new list of "shovel ready" projects in order. Be very clear about which ones are most important. And above all, if Trump's team comes calling, speak with one regional voice.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

Comments
State Vacuum and ‘Bernie Apestein’ may be waving goodbye to longtime location

State Vacuum and ‘Bernie Apestein’ may be waving goodbye to longtime location

For nearly 40 years, while wearing an eclectic mix of fashion, a mechanical gorilla has stood outside State Vacuum of Tampa, waving hello to Kennedy Boulevard motorists.His name is Bernie Apestein. "That gorilla has been a mainstay" said David Epstei...
Updated: 8 hours ago
MagneGas reports 200 percent hike in revenue for second quarter

MagneGas reports 200 percent hike in revenue for second quarter

MagneGas Corp., a Pinellas Park firm that makes a gas product used in metal working, reported a 201 percent spike in quarterly revenues on Tuesday. Its net loss increased from $2.2 million in the year-ago quarter to $3.5 million. Magnegas had $2.9 mi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
State launches investigation, assesses $800,000 in damages against SunPass contractor

State launches investigation, assesses $800,000 in damages against SunPass contractor

After months of inaction, Florida Department of Transportation officials announced today that they are assessing nearly $800,000 in damages against the SunPass contractor responsible for the state’s tolling chaos.At Gov. Rick Scott’s direction, the d...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Zillow analysis shows more than six million homes missing from U.S. market

It’s no secret that it’s hard to find housing market. But why?Real estate analytics company Zillow said it’s because of the lack of construction after the housing market crashed.Between 1985 and 2000, there were 3.9 permits issued for single-family h...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Florida Hospital to change its name to AdventHealth

Florida Hospital to change its name to AdventHealth

Beginning next year, the Florida Hospital brand will be known as AdventHealth.The Central Florida-based health care chain, which has nearly 50 hospital campuses and more than 80,000 employees, including seven hospitals around Tampa Bay, announced the...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General Hospital was ranked as Florida’s second best hospital in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Hospital Rankings released Tuesday, while Moffitt Cancer Center was named the country’s eighth-best cancer hospital.The rankings, which analy...
Published: 08/14/18
Want to feel wealthy? It will take $2.4 million.

Want to feel wealthy? It will take $2.4 million.

What would make you feel wealthy?A lot of people struggle with that question. It’s hard to know how you would feel about something you’ve never had, like say a robust stock account or a mortgage-free house.To help, Charles Schwab has come out with a ...
Published: 08/14/18
Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

TAMPA — How to attract the cool kids? This is the mantra for so many restaurants these days: That huge generation of millennials eats differently, thinks differently and spends differently than their parents. So how do you reel them in and make them ...
Published: 08/14/18
Echelman Pier sculpture raises bird safety concerns

Echelman Pier sculpture raises bird safety concerns

ST. PETERSBURG — From the beginning, the city’s plans for an aerial net sculpture on the downtown waterfront provoked alarm from those concerned about birds."I do not think that it is appropriate to place a moving, lighted net in an important flyway ...
Published: 08/14/18
Anti-straw movement picks up steam on beaches

Anti-straw movement picks up steam on beaches

Efforts to persuade restaurants and bars to discontinue the use of plastic straws are having a rippling effect in beach communities as well as some inland in Pinellas County.Former Treasure Island Mayor Bob Minning is spearheading efforts for the Tre...
Published: 08/14/18