It’s the infrastructure, stupid: the answer to our current economic woes

It’s the fall of 2011, and we are approaching three years since the worst of the economic collapse.

Thanks to bailouts, our banks have been stabilized and are profitable; our major car manufacturers have survived another day; and we’ve avoided (for now) a major depression.

What hasn’t been fixed, and who still remains in crisis, are jobs and America’s workforce. Unemployment figures, those who are out of work and are actively seeking a job, are at 9.1 percent.

Thanks in part to our plentiful natural resources but also our insatiable appetite for bold capital projects and infrastructure development; Alaska has withstood the worst of the fallout.

Take for instance the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Though it succeeds because of a resource that not everyone else has, it exists because of an approach that others should. The Pipeline was a bold infrastructure project that forced the creators to come up with new methods and technologies to make the seemingly impossible pipe dream happen.

Now a generation later, not only is the Pipeline paying its own dividends, but as it was constructed, it put thousands of Alaskans to work.

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If we want to see a decrease in unemployment nationally and have a country that is efficient to do business in the future, our answer may lie in the lessons of the Last Frontier.

Now more than ever when our current infrastructure is crumbling and outdated, and our people need work, we need to make bold investments in our national infrastructure. Repairing and improving roads, bridges, mass transportation, and grid systems may jumpstart the country what the Pipeline provided for our state.

There’s more to learn from the Alaska spirit than just than the teachings of the oil industry. Bernie Karl, the owner of Chena Hot Springs Resort, is a perfect example.

Karl combined bold business decisions with a blue-collar mentality in retool how his resort was powered. The resort owner, being on a hot springs, wanted to run Chena off of geothermal power, but conventional wisdom in the field said that his water wasn’t hot enough, and that it would be impossible.

Thinking like an Alaskan, Karl decided that if water wouldn’t work, he’d just use refrigerator coolant instead. Though he had to build it himself, Karl’s experiment is now a wild success. His ice castle, hot springs resort, and power plant aren’t the end of his ambitions; Karl is now experimenting with other sources of alternative energy, and helping the economy as he does.

The bottom line is that this nation’s economy would benefit from more Americans being inspired to build assets, not just trade them. Job creators can be anyone with an idea and drive to act, so lets make like the North and get to work.