Stimulus funds branch out as road projects begin



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A sign on Route 106 announces ARRA’s contribution to the road project. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
June 10, 2009
BELMONT — When President Obama announced his stimulus package to rebuild America's infrastructure, many wondered how this would help the economy. Pike Industries, a local leader in such construction, is proof that this strategy has been a boost to jobs and the local economy.

"Because of this stimulus money," said Pike President Christian Zimmermann, "we were able to maintain about 250 jobs and hire up to 100 more people in N.H. alone."

Zimmermann has become a spokesman of sorts for the stimulus package, making the rounds with national media to explain what has occurred in N.H. since the money began to arrive in the state. N.H. has been noted to be very fast-acting in getting funds allocated to help boost the economy. Zimmerman credits Gov. Lynch, Ray Burton and the rest of the Executive Council for acting swiftly to get this money where it belongs.

"There's been a real trickle down effect as a result," Zimmerman said. "The guys out on the job sites go to a store during their breaks, they buy a sandwich for lunch. On long-term jobs they stay in local hotels, and all of this means money back into the communities. Visit a town at the end of the summer when we're through a long-term job and see what the impact has been."

These employees buy new work clothes and shoes, and can feed and clothe their families and also spend money on recreation and entertainment. Studies show that 100 employees hired support 100 other jobs in every sector Zimmermann said, adding "That's 100 more pay checks to be spent."

Last week Zimmermann was invited to N.Y. to meet with Vice President Joseph Biden, where he had a chance to pass along a thank you message for the present administration's attention to the national infrastructure.

Repairing highways and bridges, he told Biden, is important in making people's lives what they have come to expect in the United States. Traveling on well-maintained highways allows citizens to travel safely and efficiently. Creating a smooth surface on which to travel is vital to the nation's economy. Tractor trailers haul much of the country's goods so less mechanical repairs from bad road conditions can also mean cheaper transportation, which again is reflected in the stores.

So far Pike Industries has been awarded seven N.H. DOT projects for a much needed $80 million worth of work. More projects are expected in the coming year. Zimmermann expects 35-40 per cent of that money to find its way to subcontractors throughout the region.

A part of the trickle down of money also benefits smaller companies in the area. Pike hires sub-contractors for curbing, line painting, guard rails and other work on their highway projects. More jobs for Pike Industries translates into more sub-contractors getting jobs, too.

"Another aspect of these jobs goes back to the smaller local contractors," Zimmerman noted. "When big companies like Pike's do large DOT infrastructure work it opens up smaller jobs for non-stimulus projects that we might otherwise be aggressively bidding on."

Company spokesperson Erik Taylor also noted that it isn't just crews doing the actual paving and highway improvements that are staying busy. Pike is a leading manufacturer of asphalt and gravel in northern New England and those jobs are also benefiting from the stimulus money. There are a lot of behind the scenes job being either saved or created.

"The total effect of the stimulus money has been very positive," Taylor said. "Private and commercial development is really slow right now and so this has been a godsend."

Taylor said that Pike is a company that gives back to the community as well. Employees of Pikes donate annually to the United Way. Keeping these individuals working has allowed them to continue these contributions to Lakes Region United Way. This year, despite the recession, Pike Industries has collected $14,000 more than last year, for a total of $29,000 from their employees that Pike Industries will match.

"We will be giving $58,000 to Lakes Region United Way," Taylor said, "something that probably wouldn't have happened without the stimulus money."

Zimmermann said he was proud of the donation and was quick to point out that this has been, to a great extent, a result of the stimulus money.

"Had we had to lay off people, as I was afraid of last August, there would be a lot less people contributing to United Way," he said. "Also, those who didn't get laid off might have been a bit more nervous about their own employment and less likely to contribute, too. Instead, we beat last year's contributions. This has been great for everyone!"

Zimmermann is pleased to have the ability now to maintain his company's size and actually add to the work force. Scenarios for the company in their Maine and Vermont divisions are looking good as well as they get going on large infrastructure projects in those states.

"When this money happened," he said, "Gov. Lynch, Ray Burton and the rest were well-prepared, and so were we. DOT has been very proactive in getting us all working. N.H. is really ahead of the curve on the stimulus package."

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