ABOUT

The Northeast Infrastructure Accelerator (NEX) is a non-profit center of excellence and consulting expertise working to deliver world class infrastructure, faster, through innovation. Our mission is to help local, state and regional officials make better informed, long-term decisions, deliver better value for public dollars and build the infrastructure needed for sustainable economic growth.

One of three pioneering accelerators in the country along with the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange and Intermountain Infrastructure Exchange, NEX is based on a tried, tested and successful model used in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries around the world.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reports there is currently more than $3 trillion in deferred infrastructure maintenance work needed across the country, including at least $2 billion worth in Maine. Despite the need, we are falling behind under the current system and, as a result, The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report for 2012-15 ranked the U.S. 12th in the world when it comes to infrastructure. There is no debate about the need to accelerate our ability to design, build, operate and maintain infrastructure projects.

And according to a 2014 U.S. Treasury report:

“The costs of underinvestment in infrastructure are massive. Drivers in the United States annually spend 5.5 billion hours in traffic resulting in costs of $120 billion in fuel and lost time. U.S. businesses pay $27 billion in additional freight costs because of the poor conditions of roads and other surface transportation infrastructure. The electric grid’s low resilience leads to weather-related outages that cost the U.S. economy between $18 billion and $33 billion each year, on average. Due to continuing deterioration of water systems throughout the United States, each year, there are approximately 240,000 water main breaks resulting in property damage and expensive service interruptions and repairs.”

Infrastructure accelerators provide expert advice to help local, municipal, state and regional public sectors and infrastructure project sponsors analyze and prepare a “pipeline” of infrastructure projects that are fully ready to be funded and built. Accelerators provide small and medium sized municipal communities with innovative tools, best practices and services often available only to larger city, state or regional officials. Most importantly, accelerators have expertise on a full range of innovative tools and potential funding sources to get pipeline projects built quickly. Accelerators have been initially funded and set up through nonprofit grants and state seed funding, but eventually become self-financing “centers of expertise” based on fees from public sector customers they advise.

Existing models for getting infrastructure funded and built are based on a “top-down” model where Congress determines the need and funding levels and then sends money to states. That system has not been meeting needs and there are many people working on ideas to improve it. Infrastructure accelerators provide a different, “bottom-up” model that has attracted broad, bipartisan support. Accelerators work with public sector stakeholders to identify local and regional infrastructure priorities and get them ready to move forward. Existing funding opportunities will continue and are not threatened. Accelerators will be an additional model and tool for addressing our country’s infrastructure backlog through federal and other funding opportunities.

The technology and innovative methods available for completing infrastructure projects are changing and evolving at a remarkable pace. There are: new, advanced materials; new methods of building; new ways of using big data or satellite imagery to analyze and plan projects; new models for anticipating and projecting lifecycle costs; the ability to save taxpayers money by anticipating how to build in ways that withstand increasingly frequent and strong weather events; and many more innovations. Infrastructure accelerators make it their business to know these options and look for places where they can be applied to get local or regional infrastructure projects done better, stronger and more cost effectively.

For some projects, where appropriate, one of the tools available to get projects funded and built as well as increase the value for taxpayer dollars, protect against cost overruns, reduce public risk and cut lifetime operating costs—is to have the private sector take more responsibility for operating and maintaining publicly owned infrastructure. This approach has been tried, tested and successful in many other counties, including Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and others. PBI does not mean privatizing public infrastructure. It is a way of attracting private capital to build publicly owned infrastructure while asking companies to take on the cost, risk and responsibility of operating and maintaining it. Why is the PBI model important? Right now, cities, towns and state’s across the U.S. are facing the crushing fiscal challenge of coming up with $3 trillion to pay “deferred maintenance costs” for existing infrastructure.”

Taxpayers

With an infrastructure accelerator serving Maine and the Northeast, taxpayers could expect public officials to make better decisions about infrastructure investments, get better value for each public dollar, reduce lifecycle operating and maintenance costs for their community—all leading to a stronger, more competitive local economy.

Public Sector

Municipal, state and regional public officials would benefit from having a local center of expertise available to provide world class infrastructure planning advice and methodologies based on an understanding of the latest innovations. And, with a pipeline of projects screened and ready for investment, communities would find increased funding (public and private) available to get work done.

Private Sector Investors

 Investment in government-backed projects and vehicles has always been attractive to the private sector. There is almost no risk that a city, state or region is going to “go out of business.” There are billions and billions of dollars of private capital ready to be invested in helping solve U.S. infrastructure challenges where appropriate. An effective infrastructure accelerator provides those investors with a pipeline of projects that have been rigorously, professionally vetted and deemed “ready for investment.”

Maine and Northeast Regions

Maine and the Northeast have the opportunity to be “first movers” and national leaders in getting a state/regional infrastructure accelerator up and running. We are one of only three pilot projects initially funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. That is important for three reasons: First, there is federal money available to get regional accelerators up and running and we should take advantage of that. Second, getting an accelerator up and running (as noted above) and having a pipeline of “investment ready” infrastructure projects will be a significant advantage in attracting private capital. Finally, and most importantly, leading and building good, strong, lasting infrastructure will be a competitive, economic and quality of life advantage for Maine and the region.