Stimulated, That’s What I Am

By Beacon Staff

That is, I’m stimulated by H.R. 1, the warmly and fuzzily named “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009”, which doesn’t appear to impress the Wall Street Journal.

At first glance, my thought was that if Phyllis Diller was a House bill, she’d be H.R. 1 (For those who don’t know Ms. Diller, she’s had way too many plastic surgeries).

But…I digress. ‘Tis not my job to rant about politics, that is Editor Kellyn’s job. Nope, this is a column about business – small business in particular. So instead of ranting, my plan is to start you thinking on how to get your piece of the recovery and reinvestment pie.

Even if you think it’s right up there with Communism, the bottom line that you have two choices:

1) Watch other businesses take the contracts, subcontracts etc that the bill funds.
– or –
2) Get some of the work for yourself and your employees. Use it to strengthen your business and make the best of it. Sitting around complaining doesn’t feed the bulldog, much less your kids.

So how do you find out what’s out there for your business? Sadly, it means diving in. Thankfully, there are some tools to help – though not one of them comes from Congress (those guys sure don’t seem to want people to read these things).

I’ve used ReadTheStimulus.org to scan around in the bill a bit, and gee whiz there are all sorts of fun things in there. While you’re there, check out the visual aids that ReadTheStimulus.org created from the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the stimulus bill.

Let’s look for agencies targeted to receive project money.

Search for “Forest Service” and one of the things you’ll find is $300MM (that’s million, folks) for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health and wood-to-energy grants.

This kind of search got old in a hurry (exactly how they want me to react, you say?), so I decided that the stimulus bill’s spreadsheet-in-progress was a better short-term resource.

Here’s my Business is Personal Small Business Stimulus List:

  • Iron and steel – the Act specifically says that no funds appropriated by the act may be used for a project unless the iron and steel used in that project is “produced” in the U.S.
    Of course, there are some exceptions, such as if the quantity of available American steel and iron is limited, *or* if the use of American steel and iron will increase the project’s price by more than 25%. Or if buying US iron and steel would be inconsistent with the public interest. Whatever that means.
  • Construction of all kinds – Dig around in the bill and you’ll find energy-efficient construction, hospitals, schools, military construction (including medical/child care facilities), alternative energy, Section 8 housing, reservation housing and roads; etc.
  • Rural development – Rural housing assistance ($18B), and $5-6B more on water systems, waste systems, loans, enterprise grants, etc.
  • Education – particularly in disadvantaged areas and special education ($13.6B). Disadvantaged areas include many areas in Montana. Use your friend Google to learn more about where these Federally declared areas exist.
  • Renewable energy and related research – $18B (yes, EIGHTEEN), which is allocated to biomass, geothermal, advanced batteries, military applications, etc.
  • Wireless/Broadband Deployment – $5.6B total for deployment grants, distance learning and telemedicine (A Montana specialty).
  • Energy efficiency – Almost all of the Federal projects discuss saving energy costs at Federal facilities.
  • Information technology – aka “geek stuff”
  • Public Health – A huge pile of this spending is for information technology. Interested? You’d better become an expert on NIST standards or you won’t get paid.
  • Tribal assistance – At least $8B in funds.

One of the interesting things about all this is the Republican alternative (“Economic Recovery Act of 2009”), which comes in at 31 pages. I can say it in six words and save you a pile of time: Tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits. There isn’t a single public works or infrastructure project in this version of H.R. 1, so I didn’t cover it in detail.

If you’re a business owner, I suggest you educate yourself about the Act, whether you like the idea or not.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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