Can Obama Pave The Way to New Jobs?

New economic initiative likely to boost employment, but may not move the needle for black-owned businesses

Economist Boston believes the president's plan to rebuild the nation's infrastructure could increase its global competitiveness.

Standing before a union crowd in Milwaukee on Labor Day, President Obama rolled out new economic initiatives that he hopes will help spur the nation’s economy and job growth and send a message to the American public—and his party, which is plummeting in the polls–that he gets it.

The proposals includes $50 billion in funding to rebuild 150,000 miles of highway roads, 4,000 miles of rail, 150 miles of airport runway and modernize the nation’s air traffic control system. In addition, the president is calling for a government-run infrastructure bank that would leverage private, state, and local capital to invest in infrastructure projects.

“This will not only create jobs immediately, it’s also going to make our economy hum over the long haul. It’s a plan that history tells us can and should attract bipartisan support,” Obama said. “It’s a plan that says even in the aftermath of the worst recession in our lifetimes, America can still shape our own destiny.  We can still move this country forward.  We can still leave our children something better.”

As far as the overall economy goes, says Georgia Tech economist Thomas Boston, Obama’s plan is a good idea because it will help the nation, which is part of a global economy, become more competitive.

“The global competition we’re facing now has forced corporations across the board to drastically downsize their workforce and become more lean and mean,” Boston said. “Obama’s proposals would make the entire economy more competitive through investments in transportation and infrastructure that benefit businesses in general.”

But for black businesses, the news is far less optimistic. Boston, who also sits on the BE Board of Economists, predicts that the president’s proposals will have very little impact on those firms. That’s due in large to the fact that only the largest corporations have the capacity to manage many of the types of projects Obama is targeting. In addition, his research has found that the state transportation agencies that issue the associated contracts tend to subcontract to the same small pool of minority firms.

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