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U.S. Exports Growth Clogged by Local Inefficiences, Lack of Strategy and Investment
What will be the short and long-term effects if the United States does not overhaul its transportation infrastructure? And, what are some of the most important things the country must do to realize President Obama's goal of doubling exports by 2015?
Adam Wasserman, Partner, PortCentric Logistics Partners LLC
If the United States does not overhaul its transportation infrastructure, there will be little visible effect on national or even regional competitiveness in the short term. That is in fact the problem, as the long-term impact to poor transportation planning is not clearly evident. Taken in small incremental bites we don't see the wider effect to shippers or to economic development in terms of exposure to energy cost rises, congestion, cost or reliability. It is over medium and longer periods where issues become more evident. In the end, if we are not focused on the desired output we certainly won't be focusing on the right inputs - meaning we may well not meet the corporate competitiveness or economic development objectives if we are continuing to rely on "patchwork" solutions for ports, logistics hubs, and road and rail infrastructure.

In meeting President Obama's goals, we must get the basics right and let the market enjoy the fruits of a stronger framework. Exports by definition (tangible goods) are goods that must be delivered to another market - and that requires enabling infrastructure such as a bridge or border crossing (Canada and Mexico), airport or seaport. Toward envisioning substantial growth over time (noted that 2015 is just a few years away!) we must create much more robust infrastructure and this requires strategy and investment cash. Other countries are doing this very well and we are not on a large-scale basis. This requires very strong coordination, an understanding of the link between market viability and export logistics infrastructure. There are other very important elements in supporting this export objective as well including small business awareness of opportunity, access to capital and increased market development support. As a country, we do fairly little to support our businesses in search of and support for winning foreign business. This might mean a more significant government role in a way, but at present, again there is an extremely inefficient patchwork of support at the local levels that probably makes little sense from a larger perspective.
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