In New England, the lilacs are still a few weeks away, but thanks to the economic stimulus, jobs have already bloomed.
On Friday, I had my first opportunity as Secretary to visit New Hampshire and Vermont, and the day could not have been more promising. Sunny and warm, an excellent start to the paving season.
It wasn't just the weather; it was the people I had the good fortune to meet, both at public ceremonies and in private interviews (Foster's, NHPR, Times Argus, VPR) and meetings. I met some of the most dedicated, impressive public officials during our visit. And, I also encountered a very well-prepared media. You know, I've been doing a lot of traveling, visiting stimulus projects here and there around the country. But, I really enjoyed my stops in the northeast last week. It's beautiful country, and the folks are very knowledgeable and passionate about transportation issues, a combination I appreciate.
In Epping, NH, there were highway people, Governor John Lynch, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, Congressman Paul Hodes, as well as state senators and the state transportation commissioner. We had a wonderful groundbreaking ceremony for a Route 101 resurfacing project. Maybe a 10-mile repaving job doesn't seem like a huge undertaking, but, I tell you, this "small" project has already created jobs.
Lauren Collins of NECN cites Pike Industries (the bid winner) as already hiring 15 people and processing the applications of an additional 30 to get the work done: "Those jobs range from the men and women you see on the side of the highway, to those back in the office, and the many sub-contractors, engineers, and architects that are needed for projects of this scope."
Lara Bricker reports in the Portsmouth Herald, that Jason Thornton, 33, was hired by Pike from that pool of applicants and started work last Monday. This fellow has four children and was relying day-to-day on scattered jobs before he was hired for the Route 101 project. "I'm fortunate to get hooked up with a stable company," he said. "Stability is the key factor; knowing that there's going to be a paycheck every Friday or Monday."
"The federal economic stimulus money is working here in New Hampshire," Gov. Lynch said. "In New Hampshire, we're going to be able to pave about 1,000 miles of roads." That 1,000 miles is four times the 250 miles NH had budgeted before Congress passed the President's stimulus.
That's what this is all about. Jobs and mobility. And, we're making both happen quickly.
In Berlin, Vermont, near Montpelier, I met with Governor Jim Douglas, Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie, and Senator Bernie Sanders, as well as state legislators and FAA officials. There we announced funding for a runway expansion at Edward E. Knapp State Airport.
This money will put people to work in Vermont while providing an important investment in airport safety. That means boosting the economy in the short term through job creation and sustaining economic recovery in the long-term by making airports more efficient and secure. The Burlington Free Press reports that the project will create 54 jobs.
Sure, 54 may not seem like big news. But, if you do the math and start multiplying this project thousands of times [See my previous entry on the 2,000th stimulus project], you've got something worth writing home about. As Sen. Sanders said Friday, "This grant is another example of how the economic stimulus package is rebuilding our infrastructure and moving America in a dramatic new direction by creating millions of good-paying jobs."