Norman F. Anderson is CEO of CG/LA, a private consultant devoted mainly to infrastructure investment and development. CG/LA is hosting the 2nd North American Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C. (www.cg-la.com)
What is the theme of this year’s CG/LA conference?
We’re focused on the top 100 projects in North America. The idea is to focus on projects that will generate economic competitiveness. We need to focus on tripling the level of infrastructure in North America. It was 3% of the GDP in 1980. Now it's 1.3%. That creates all sorts of problems.
I understand the American High-Speed Rail Association is a first-time sponsor.
Yes. One of the big issues will be 2020 versus 110—true high-speed rail or gradually increasing speed? One of the big presentations will be about the route between St. Louis and Chicago.
What about the California high-speed rail project?
We don’t think California will be participating. We did cherry-pick the presentations to highlight the ones that made the most economic sense. California....it’s hard to imagine that project really moving forward.
Then what do you think of the way high-speed rail grants have been administered?
The Administration’s approach is flawed in the sense of letting the states take the lead. This is such a high-capital, high-tech effort...we need a high-speed rail-oriented organization in Washington.
In today's divisive political climate, can infrastructure really be a priority?
The idea is to bring to Washington all the key infrastructure people so the Administration can get a good look. They put me on Bloomberg News, supposedly to debate against [Terex CEO] Ron DeFeo, and we ended up agreeing that infrastructure cannot be politicized.
But a lot of Republicans have said they’re against the Administration’s proposed infrastructure bank.
I’d suspect a national infrastructure bank has a better chance of being passed after the elections. But going forward, it’s a place where Republicans and Democrats ought to be able to work together.
Weren’t previous conferences emphasizing the opportunities in Latin America?
A focus now on North America will help provide a richer discussion. Unless we get North America investing in the right kinds of infrastructure we will keep losing jobs.