The pink and blue represent state and local spending on highway construction and maintenance; the green and orange, federal spending. With federal aid unlikely to increase,  state and local agencies are finding increasingly creative ways to continue provide safe, comfortable streets and roads.
All Traffic Solutions The pink and blue represent state and local spending on highway construction and maintenance; the green and orange, federal spending. With federal aid unlikely to increase, state and local agencies are finding increasingly creative ways to continue provide safe, comfortable streets and roads.

I recently visited Hilti Corp., the crème-de-la-crème of commercial construction hand tools (so I’m told). To keep technologically savvy college grads from joining places like Google and Facebook, the company moved from Tulsa to Dallas and built workspace anyone would love: desks that raise and lower electronically, padded benches with outlets for laptops, couches, games, conference rooms with wall-to-wall whiteboards, wellness rooms where nursing mothers and employees who just need a break can get away. Not surprisingly, the company’s retention rate is incredibly high.

The company realized it needed to attract a new skill set into its ranks. It used to only need people who could design safe, reliable anchor systems, drills, grinders, power tools, and saws. Now, it also needs employees who can develop software, apps, and services that will improve customers’ productivity. Reinventing itself to explore and exploit new technologies is one reason the company’s reputation is so strong.

Public agencies also need these two skill sets. We used to only need people who could design safe, reliable streets, highways, collection systems, and treatment plants. Now, we also need employees who can cost-effectively transition assets and operations to an open-source environment with swiftly changing communications platforms and protocols. They’ll separate the snake oil salesmen from viable vendors and collaborate with private-sector partners without compromising core public service values. A new contractor set is emerging, and we need employees adept at managing them.

These aren’t concepts that governments are comfortable with, but they’re necessary to maintaining the average American’s quality of life. If your agency’s started down this road, tell me what you’re doing ([email protected]). If you disagree, let me know that as well.