05 Feb Infrastructure stimulus packages, part two: Top 10 best practices
CHICAGO – How effective will all the infrastructure stimulus money be without best practices in place?
Is every government agency or corporate entity that’s getting government money conscientious about spending it? Will government spending give you – the individual taxpayer – the incentive to buy a new car from GM or Ford to boost their bottom line?
On the other hand, has the stimulus package become the Oscar Mayer package to some entities?
Top 10 Best Practices
Following up on last week’s column, it’s time to discuss the details of best practices for spending stimulus package monies. Here are some guidelines I’ve thought about.
- Don’t be like Citigroup, Merrill Lynch or some of the other financial firms with your funds. Put the money into a better use. Now is not the time to be handing out big raises and new benefits because “it’s not our money” and “it’s coming out of the stimulus package”. No new office furniture. No corporate jets. No $35,000 bathroom commodes. No $16,000 coffee tables for your office. Apply it with some common sense.
- Look for projects that will have a residual value going forward. No Lincoln bicentennial birthday parties, mega-fireworks displays or that 20 imported beer-tasting festival you’ve always been wanting to throw for your annual town fest.
- Have a sense of urgency. Get something started and completed. Show results quickly. That in itself gets more people wanting to do something instead of sitting and waiting like many people did after Sept. 11, 2001.
- Create momentum. Just instituting one or two improvements can save you money in the long run. Completing one project will lead to the initiation of others.
- Don’t use money to placate a small special interest group. Use it for the common good for the vast majority of people. Use it for a new bridge, road, sewers, runway or wireless Internet coverage for an area. There are so many broad areas that should be targeted but will probably be missed. Remember it is money from the people that’s for the benefit of the people. It’s not just for a small group.
- Think about spending this money on investments rather than expenses. What gives some real payback? Think hard. Look at infrastructure as a strategic investment. It’s not a tactical expense. You might come up with some rock-solid projects just by taking this viewpoint.
- While you’re doing this, review your current processes and policies. Can you do something better than the way it has been done in last 20 years? Are you just going to waste the money on obsolete procedures that should have been replaced decades ago? Some cities still do things the way they did in the 1950s. Those procedures are probably labor intensive, slow and a resource drain. You probably spend more money than what you get out of it in benefit. Replace them now. With new money, institute some new practices.
- Get out of the 1930s mentality. Handing someone a shovel is not utilizing many people’s skill sets today. Look to utilizing computer skills and more complex skills instead of always focusing on the lowest-common denominator of skills. This is what most jobs programs are focused on and it’s why most of them aren’t successful in trying to help today’s displaced work force.
- Aim high. Setting some goals will push people into wanting to achieve a higher standard. “Make-work projects” are usually not well thought out or well received. Creating real projects creates real results and real benefits.
- Stop job erosion. Hire local people. Get people recirculating the money locally as the number of underemployed people is several times greater than those just unemployed. You don’t need to go out of state to find talent.
It looks like most of you don’t have to worry about adhering to best practices as it already appears the latest stimulus package has reverted back to pork by a different name. It’s unfortunate that noble causes sometimes turn into the old get-our-piece-of-the-pie approach to government.
Carlinism: Stimulus packages are starting to have more pork in them than Jimmy Dean sausage.
Previous articles by James Carlini
- James Carlini: Infrastructure stimulus packages: Best practices, Part I
- James Carlini: Stimulus package 2009: 21st Century infrastructure defined
- James Carlini: Financial uncertainty freezes holiday customers
- James Carlini: Auto industry bailout protects the mediocre
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.