A week ago today, we closed the books on our 2023 Convention and Legislative Summit with our Engineering Excellence Awards ceremony. It was a fitting end to a very successful conference. I want to again congratulate all our EEA winners, including this year’s Grand Conceptor Award winner, HNTB, for their Sixth Street Viaduct Project in Los Angeles. It is the largest bridge project in Los Angeles history, and it facilitates both physical and social connection among Angelenos. Dazzling in both its scale and scope, this Project also is a metaphor for what engineers can do. We bridge gaps – in every sense of the term. The days leading up to the EEAs were jam-packed with educational sessions, networking opportunities, and a varied roster of keynote speakers. We heard from GOP presidential candidate and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who shared his perspectives on the state of American politics, and the importance of bipartisanship in fostering progress. “One thing I learned as governor is that you have to work with the other side,” he said. “They won an election, too.” He went on to note that such an approach could also have a calming effect on our politics. He pointed to what he called the “principled wins” both sides were able to gain in passing IIJA, declaring that “more accomplishments in Washington can lower the temperature a bit.” Economist and former CNBC host Marci Rossell weighed in on the US economy, declaring that recession fears are largely unfounded. She also addressed workforce shortages, debunking the often-repeated explanation for the tight labor market: that young people “don’t want to work.” Rossell shared a statistic that belies that assertion. “Every year, 300,000 fewer people are turning 18. It’s not that young people don’t want to work. It’s that they were never born.” Remedying workforce shortages was high on the agenda of our Advocacy team’s discussion on legislative issues of importance to our firms. In preparation for our Hill visits, Advocacy held a briefing to outline our positions on visas and unused green cards. They also touched on IIJA implementation, permitting modernization, and R&D amortization. We also heard what’s on the horizon for the Research Institute as it enters its fourth year. Guided by a three-point approach to thought leadership and research, the Institute is taking a long view of its future and, in tandem, leaning in on projects that will provide near-term wins. For the former, the Institute’s leadership discussed the three pillars of its Firm of the Future project: workforce, technology and innovation, and business models. One major component of Firm of the Future is our DEI Maturity Model, which will help benchmark our equity and inclusion goals. “I am personally very excited about this new tool,” said Institute Chair Mike Carragher. “We can’t build the kind of future we envision without diversity of talents, experiences, and perspectives.” And amid all of that, there was plenty of opportunity to engage with one another, to reconnect with old friends, and to make new ones. The feeling of camaraderie and connection among this group was palpable, and I believe that it contributes mightily to the success of our industry. It was a great convention, and I already am looking forward to seeing everyone again this fall in Austin. Meanwhile, if you’d like to revisit some of last week’s content, please visit our (newly designed!) website and check out the blogs and podcasts produced throughout the convention.
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