Article | February 27, 2020
We are entering a defining period for the federal government. Not only are we barreling toward another presidential election, but a continuing influx of emerging technologies will transform how agencies operate. “IT modernization” has been a catchphrase for years now, and we’ll see that attention continue with the implementation of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotic process automation (RPA).
Article | February 27, 2020
Another round of funding from by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will guarantee the launch of numerous projects at airports throughout the U.S. This particular grant program provides smaller funding amounts, but the funding can augment projects that are part of larger initiatives.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced in July that more than $273 million in airport safety and infrastructure funding has been approved for 184 airports in 41 states and six territories. Program details can be found here for airport safety and infrastructure grants. The bulk of the funding, just over $242 million, is provided through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, while $31 million is a result of the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
This funding provides a 100 percent federal cost share for airport projects that fall into the category of infrastructure and/or safety. Projects of numerous types are eligible, but recently approved ones range from runway and taxiway construction to lighting improvements and master plan studies. And, most of the projects are slated to launch within the next year.
Projections for increased airline travel in 2021 are strong, and pent-up demand will result in even more upcoming airport projects of all types.
Plans for a major renovation at Punta Gorda Airport are underway and will be enhanced by a grant allocation of $471,305. The FAA funding will cover the design phase for renovating the airport’s 7,193-foot-long runway. Construction is slated to begin in 2021. Punta Gorda Airport is off the Gulf Coast north of Fort Myers.
Boca Raton Airport received a $694,444 federal grant to update its master plan. This upfront work will outline and prioritize airport improvement projects and expansion plans for the next two decades. Recent conversations have focused on new additions related to lighting, signage, taxiway and runway drainage, and other improvements. The 243-acre airport is in southern Palm Beach County.
While Tampa International Airport didn’t receive funding in the most recent round of FAA grants, numerous upcoming projects have been announced. The projects are listed in the airport’s 2021 Proposed Budget. Among those is an elevator modernization project projected to cost approximately $7.4 million. It is slated for the airport’s main terminal. Another technology project covered by a fiscal year 2021 capital commodity plan has a cost allocation of $1.5 million, and an airside A&C shuttle car and control system replacement project totaling $13.2 million is anticipated in the near future.
Miami International Airport is working on the solicitation for a new hotel with a 30- to 50-year lease agreement. As the nation’s second-busiest airport, officials hope to partner with a group to construct a “world-class” 350-room hotel. The plans call for the new hotel to be connected by a pedestrian bridge to Concourse D. Amenities will include a restaurant, business center, 20,000-square-foot meeting space for events, and a fitness center.
A small airport off Interstate 5 in northern California has been notified that it will receive funding for renovations. The Dunsmuir Municipal-Mott Airport was awarded $3.2 million to perform critical renovations to the runway and reconstructing the taxiway. City officials were pleased to announce that the airport runway, which has been in disrepair for some time, will now be completely refurbished and made safer.
Engineering and design work is nearing completion for a new $13 million terminal for Texarkana Regional Airport. The facility, which is located along U.S. 67 east of downtown Texarkana, received $3.6 million in FAA grant funding. Construction of the new terminal is just one part of a larger $34 million project for the airport.
Columbia Regional Airport will extend one of its runways with the help of a $9.9 million federal grant. The Columbia City Council in March approved extending Runway 2-20 from 6,500 feet to 7,400 feet in order to be able to accept larger aircraft and also increase takeoff and stopping distances. City officials estimated the total cost of construction at $11 million, and the city has budgeted an additional $1.1 million for the runway extension project. This project will be launched in 2021.
Although airports in the state of Louisiana did not receive grant funding from the FAA, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is working to finalize its master plan and has numerous projects already slated for the near future. Once the plan is completed, interested contractors will be able to find numerous and diverse improvement and expansion projects outlined. The airport is just south of Interstate 10 and Lake Pontchartrain.
Hillsboro Airport has a $2.8 million construction project planned for early 2021. Officials have announced that a contractor will be selected to reconstruct almost the full length of Taxiway A and connect it to several other taxiways. The work will be performed in conjunction with the FAA and Port of Portland Operations.
The city of Atlanta is scheduled to release a request for proposals (RFP) for on-call engineering services at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. An engineering firm will be selected to provide ground surveys in support of upcoming work that will be handled by the city aviation planning and development department. Atlanta’s airport held the distinction of being busier than any other airport in the U.S. in 2019. More than 110 million passengers passed through the airport either departing on or arriving back from airline flights.
Although these most recent grant awards will not fund huge airport projects, the funding will enable the launch of thousands of smaller contracting opportunities.
Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.
Article | February 27, 2020
Unless America and China assume joint leadership for global economic recovery, reconstruction of the post-coronavirus world could take years, with unimaginable consequences for the world’s 7.8 billion inhabitants, including unprecedented levels of global unemployment, famine, and even war.
In the pre-coronavirus world, suggestions for a partnership between the world’s two superpowers would have been met with gales of laughter. But now, despite the two leaders’ daggers drawn posture, hundreds of doctors and scientists in the U.S. and China are already working together on clinical trials of potential coronavirus drugs; and one of China’s biggest property developers has funded a five-year $115 million project between Harvard University and the Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health.
But the window of opportunity for acting together is short. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to decimate the world’s economies. Unemployment in the U.S. now tops 22 million, a level not seen since the great-depression of the nineteen-thirties; while China’s economy stopped growing for the first time in four decades as half a million small and mid-size businesses, the backbone of China’s economy closed; and Italy, the second largest manufacturing economy in the EU watches helplessly as the pandemic axe dismembers its economy. Were India and Africa were unable to control the coronavirus the results could be catastrophic.
So, are there issues of such import and mutual benefit that they would convince President’s Trump and Xi Jinping to work together? I believe there are. My two cents worth below.
The two superpowers could leverage China’s vast, trillion-dollar global infrastructure project—the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI, that aims to build infrastructure in over 120 countries of Asia, Europe, and Africa. The BRI is designed to act as a conveyer belt to transmit Chinese investment and technology into these countries to improve their economies, and to link them to China. But now Covid-19 has crimped China’s ability to sustain BRI’s trillion-dollar underwriting tab and President Xi Jinping’s grandiose vision is at risk.
On the other hand, the United States, which has been searching for a counter to BRI, has settled on an initiative called the Blue Dot Network or BDN. The idea behind the BDN is the U.S. would rigorously vet infrastructure project applications in developing countries to ensure high levels of transparency, sustainability, and economic viability before seeding them with startup funds from the U.S. Government. The BDN hallmark would then inspire confidence in the projects to attract private U.S. funding.
But the relatively paltry BDN budget of $60 billion (versus China’s 1000 billion or trillion-dollar BRI budget) and developing countries’ skepticism of Western (read U.S.) dominated standards for infrastructure construction have hobbled the BDN.
If the U.S. and China could find a way to combine BRI and the BDN it would ensure a stream of dollars from private U.S. companies into BRI and ensure its projects remain on track to create jobs and raise living standards around the world. The compromises required by America and China to weld BRI and BDN together would ensure the U.S. gets a seat at the table to influence the adoption of standards for starting and executing BRI projects.
Here’s another idea: The U.S. military is especially qualified to help fight natural disasters. In 2004, for instance, 3,000 U.S. military personnel were deployed to West Africa to help combat a deadly Ebola epidemic. Their work included constructing 17 hospitals, field training, and deploying assistance by air to remote villages. Today the U.S. military is being used to rapidly set up hospitals in U.S. cities to handle the burgeoning coronavirus caseload. The People’s Liberation Army meanwhile seems determined to play a more active global role in peace-keeping projects around the world.
Coronavirus-aid projects delivered to less-off countries through joint U.S.-China military teams would double what the U.S. and China could do on their own. And help establish the military to military connections that the U.S. has tried to foster with China for some time. A working relationship between the two nations’ militaries might even lead to a more stable geopolitical balance of power.
The Chinese word for crisis contains two characters. One signals danger, the other opportunity. Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping should boldly find a way to join forces to convert the deadly Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity that would supercharge global economic recovery and might well change the course of the 21st Century. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that ought not to be squandered.
Article | February 27, 2020
This week has been filled with updates on the progress of Coronavirus (COVID-19) moving across the globe. Predictions of the severity of the disease’s impact have sent financial markets spinning, causing widespread stockpiling of food and essentials, and sent America’s workforce home to quell the spread of disease. Businesses everywhere are trying to stay afloat while ensuring that employees also have the necessary resources. Meanwhile, Congress continues to work on economic stimulus measures, several of which passed and were signed in to law yesterday. These laws will directly and immediately impact businesses, their employee benefit plans, and regulatory compliance obligations. New requirements addressing COVID-19 include paid leave, mandated testing and treatment, and refundable tax credits that finance these benefits. President Trump signed the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) into law on March 18, 2020, and more legislation is being proposed. Below is a summary of the changes through March 20th that have important tax and employee benefits implications.