Across America’s Infrastructure: Day 2 at JETC
Posted on May 25, 2016 | By Stephen Karl
The second day of the 2016 JETC in Phoenix kicked off with a Year in Review video and then an address by SAME President Jane Penny on the Society’s accomplishments the past 12 months. Penny emphasized the importance of SAME’s 30,000 volunteer members, and the support they provide, especially in STEM outreach and veteran transition programs. She also thanked the many individuals who helped develop the new SAME Foundation, which will enable the Society to further support the professional development and growth of America’s next generation of military, government civilian and A/E/C industry leaders.
Following Penny’s address, the morning featured a keynote speech from Dan McNichol, best-selling writer and award-winning journalist, and the author of several books including the The Roads that Built America, The Big Dig, and Paving the Way: Asphalt in America.
McNichol captivated the audience with an oral diary of his 12,000-mile circumnavigation of the United States in a 1949 Hudson—a vehicle that represented the old, and in many areas, decaying infrastructure across the country. As McNichol pointed out, “the most dangerous highways are often the ones we drive every day.”
From arriving late to an event at West Point early on the journey because the Hudson broke down, to breaking down on the way from New York to Chicago, to breaking down in the forests of the Northwest, McNichol’s journey represented that of many businesses, individuals, and entities throughout the country: get knocked down, but you get back up again, and carry on.
His address also touched on the economic implications of failing infrastructure to our global competitiveness. For instance, the story of a small bridge in the Midwest that came down in 2010 and by 2013 still had not been repaired. This small bridge would not have taken much to rebuild; but as a result of its failure, farmers were needing to drive 16 miles out of their way, costing them money.
But there are positive trends emerging, and with a little creativity, money can be found and solutions can be built. In fact, as McNichol said, in a microcosm, it is American to take on a problem and build a solution. The response to the I-35 bridge collapse and the work of the Corps of Engineers and others after Hurricane Katrina exemplify what we can do on an accelerated timeline with more upfront funding and direction and resolve. Because when engineers see a problem, McNichol reminded the audience, what they really see is an exciting opportunity. Moreover, politicians are not the problem, either. They are really part of the solution; it is just crucial to educate them and keep them aware of what solutions are available, and the impact they can have.
As McNichol closed, he made clear that change is always coming, so embrace it. The importance of infrastructure to our nation is immense. And if it is our institutions are what makes us great— and they are—our sticks and bricks are what hold our institutions together. Share that message, and we can make a difference.
Following Dan McNichol’s keynote, the JETC Exhibit Hall opened up, and attendees headed down to make connections, learn about new products, services, and meet potential partners. With more than 200 exhibitors, the JETC Exhibit Hall offers an array of product and service providers from across the A/E/C industry and related businesses.
In addition to the Exhibit Hall, JETC offered more than 20 education sessions on Wednesday, including a panel featuring senior leaders of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army on their energy policies and trends they are seeing, as well as the start of the Joint Engineer Table Top Field Exercise. This inaugural exercise brought together nearly 50 participants from across the military services and the contracting arena for a multi-faceted training exercise that is designed to help better understand and communicate the capabilities of the joint engineer force and where there may be gaps that need to be addressed.
Wednesday afternoon concluded with the uniformed services All Hands meetings and a networking reception in the Exhibit Hall.
Day 3 of the 2016 JETC in Phoenix will kick off early on Thursday at 7:15 a.m. for the Society Leadership & Post Awards Breakfast. Day 3 also will feature a panel discussion featuring senior engineering leaders of the uniformed services and the installation of the 2016-2017 SAME President Capt. Mike Blount, P.E., LEED AP, F.SAME, USN (Ret.), all leading up to the Society Ball & Awards Gala tomorrow night!
For more information on the 2016 JETC, visit www.same.org/jetc. Follow us on twitter @same_hq and #SAMEJETC.