Steve Stockton began his presentation to the GMA Executive Council last summer by noting that the current U.S. infrastructure is aging and that there is a great need for rehabilitation of the infrastructure to prolong its lifespan, and also the need to construct new and stronger infrastructure. He said that the USACE is an advocate for reinvesting and recapitalizing the nation’s infrastructure. He emphasized that an effective infrastructure helps to build a solid economy and keeps the country competitive.
Stockton then explained the current funding levels of the USACE:
- $2 billion, maintenance
- $2 billion, new construction
- $1 billion, research
= $ 5 billion total annually
Stockton stressed that the USACE’s budget, relative to the country’s need for these three areas of funding, is very small. (This is a point where GMA can stress the cost-effective use of geosynthetic products from several perspectives, such as time, money, and longevity.)
Stockton said that the region’s levee protection is 90-plus% restored to pre-Katrina condition. USACE has been using supplemental/temporary materials in areas of levees to bring levees to a 100-year protection mark.
USACE has $5 billion at its disposal through 2010 for recovery efforts.
Stockton emphasized that GMA should contact and become familiar with the local district Corps offices. District offices and local contractors make the decisions on the use of technology and materials. GMA should stay in contact with local contractors because they will make the buying decisions.
Stockton noted two other opportunities for GMA to pursue:
- Additional contracts issued through FedBizzOpps.com
- The need to become familiar with “Prime Contractors”
Stockton noted that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is a good target for a potential partnership. GMA should try to partner with a technical, innovative organization to educate more individuals about the industry and materials benefits.
‘The Human Factor’
“People can be reluctant to shift to new products, even if the products they currently use cost more,” Stockton said. He was also very much in agreement with the GMA Executive Council that geosynthetic materials could provide a cost-effective and longer-lasting material for the civil engineering/construction industry. But he noted that GMA needs to find ways to be able to conclusively prove to people the multiple ways that these products are superior.
There is also industry pressure from aggregate companies, and others, to have continued use of their products in the face of newer technology. GMA needs to be able to overcome “the human factor”—including familiar, long-time usage of some materials—and assure them that these geosynthetics products are capable of the qualities attributed to them.
GMA must prove that their product is low-risk, reliable, and robust. GMA can prove this with risk-based analysis that a customer can look to for assurance.
In addition, of great value would be a study that can show a cost-savings analysis when comparing geosythetics to traditional materials. (Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., personally suggested that GMA provide his office with a study of this nature, and he would be capable of working on behalf of this constituent industry.)