Investment in Water Infrastructure

Are we investing enough in our water infrastructure? New data shows, the answer might be a little bit more complicated than it once was, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) recently created a status report on COVID-19’s impact on America’s infrastructure—and the outlook is bleak.


Fiber to the Farms

Rural development loans and grants are being used to bring broadband Internet access to farms and small towns across the country. With many businesses and schools depending on remote work rather than in-person contact because of the COVID-19 pandemic, having Internet access is vital, not a luxury.

Nineteen recipients of a total of $75 million in federal grant funds under the Mississippi Broadband COVID-19 program, which is designed to help residents and businesses in unserved or underserved areas of the state get fast, reliable internet access in 2020, are required to match 50% of the overall cost of their individual project. This cost sharing approach will make the project a community partnership with the companies involved while allowing the companies to recoup their investments from long-term Internet access fees.


Construction Cloud Gets Pyped

Construction-focused software and systems are still a limited field compared to the general applications market. Niche software is often developed with high technology aspects, such as AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning capabilities, that slow their adoption due to “fear of change.” Construction is one of the largest industries that is slow to accept new technology, unfortunately.

One answer is to make the application easily integrated with systems in use at many companies already, and offer the technology embedded in a cloud-based system making its use easier and less expensive. Major players in the market are quick to recognize the benefits of these technologies and, by integration or acquisition, make them part of their overall construction system.


AI: Slowed but not Stopped

AI—Artificial Intelligence (or Augmented Intelligence)—has been a buzzword for decades. Every day we hear of things being augmented with AI: autonomous cars, for example. But is AI really growing and being implemented in practical, useful applications?

Apparently so. Worldwide revenues for the AI market, including software, hardware, and services, are expected to total $156.5 billion in 2020, an increase of 12.3% over 2019. While this year's growth is somewhat slower than previous years due to the economic impact of COVID-19, IDC (ntl. Data Corp.) believes investment in AI will recover quickly.


USDA Loans and Grants

The Rural Development Program at the Department of Agriculture can be a funding source for small towns that have infrastructure plans but no capital. There are two programs, loans and grants, each with its own requirements and funding sources. Eligible borrowers include public bodies, community-based non-profit corporations, and Federally recognized tribes.

Direct Loans require repayment terms not longer than the useful life of the facility, the applicants’ authority, or a maximum of 40 years, whichever is less. Interest rates are set by Rural Development, and once the loan is approved, the interest rate is fixed for the entire term of the loan. Interest is determined by the median household income of the service area and population of the community. There are no pre-payment penalties.


Infrastructure and the Department of Agriculture

The federal government is comprised of many departments, agencies, and commissions. Some deal with areas that would seem to be outside their mandate, if you think that mandate is found in their name. The USDA (Dept. of Agriculture), for example, would logically deal with crop and livestock issues but they also address other aspects of what is usually referred to as rural living.

Take for instance an investment the USDA is making in building a new campus for the Winooski School District in Winooski, Vermont. Winooski is a city of about 8,000 people adjacent to Burlington, a city of 43,000. Burlington is the home of the University of Vermont among other attractions while Winooski is the most densely populated municipality in northern New England, an area comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.


Small Business Wage Growth

After months of economic pain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, states continue to revise their closure mandates for what have been deemed non-essential business. Shops are reopening, restaurants are serving (limited numbers of) people indoors, and customers have been venturing out, safely, once again.

What has been happening to those who have continued to work through the slowdown? The latest Paychex | IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch shows that despite hiring remaining flat since its drop-off in April, employees of small business are seeing the benefits of solid wage growth. Hourly earnings growth was steady at 3.28% in August and weekly earnings continue to improve as the number of hours worked increases. The national jobs index stood at 94.39, moderating 0.21% from the previous month.


Hey, Dude, Where’s My Truck?

Fleet owners at every level are concerned about theft of their vehicles. Insurance costs, replacement costs, and lost time are making vehicle tracking technology more and more interesting to fleet managers and construction companies of all sizes. Vehicle tracking systems combine tracking the location of a vehicle with a software interface that further displays various vehicle data.

Several factors, such as growing traffic congestion, concerns regarding vehicle safety and security, and the need for higher operational efficiency are anticipated to drive the market growth according to Grand View Research in a new report. The systems are also suitable for several applications in the GPS segment, such as tracking and mapping devices, sea vessel and air navigation, as well as ground vehicle tracking.