The year 2020 is quickly — thankfully — coming to an end. This is been a year of uncertainty.

The COVID-19 virus has affected our everyday life, dramatically. The status of our economy is questionable at best. Our presidential election in the United States was divisive. Always wanting to be a look-at-the-glass-as-half-full kind of person, I sure do wonder what the trenchless and overall construction industry has to look forward to in 2021.

RELATED: 2020 Water, Wastewater Infrastructure Funding Overview

In my opinion, we have three huge challenges in 2021. Certainly, we will overcome the COVID-19 virus and our political situation will work its way out. Just look back at all that the United States has overcome in the past. So, what about these three challenges otherwise?

The first challenge is really an ongoing problem. That is a lack of sufficient infrastructure spending. Our local, state and national government keep promising more money to fund infrastructure projects, but it never, never gets done. Because of our many cases of crumbling infrastructure, this would seem to be an easy thing to get accomplished. But there’s so many people with their own political agendas. And, of course, when money does become available it always seems to focus more on highways, bridges, airports, etc. Water and wastewater infrastructure is left to fend for itself. The result is that local governments have resorted to higher and higher water rates. Will we see in 2021 our national governments finally rank water infrastructure at the top of the list?

A second big issue is our construction workforce. Young people continue to avoid a career in construction. With so many opportunities for our population to work less because of support from the federal government, it’s even tougher to attract people. We also have big problems with work ethic and drug use that is especially hurting our construction economy. Many times, we hear of a contractor finding it impossible to find drug-free staff to operate very expensive and dangerous construction equipment. I’ve heard contractors arrange interviews, they hire a person, and the new hire doesn’t show up or works a few days and just quits. I recently talked with a landscape contractor that had 25 interviews lined up and not one person showed up. The word systemic seems to be used a lot these days; we certainly have a workforce systemic problem.

RELATED: The Trenchless Industry & COVID-19

A final major issue is a general distrust by the public of our politicians and government. The feeling more and more seems to be that nothing will get done and no one wants to take accountability. Perhaps a good example of this is the what happened in Flint, Michigan, regarding the lead pipe water problem. We have so many regulatory considerations that many times these take precedence over the needs of an infrastructure project. And, of course, in the same vein are environmental matters. This is sure the case regarding oil and gas pipelines. I’m venting here, but let’s pray that this political distrust hopefully disappears.

Yes, we have our challenges as we move forward into 2021; however, we should look back at 2020 and think about all the blessings we’ve had. Everything is relative. Imagine living in a Third World country where “clean water” comes from a source that you would think “Oh my god, you drink that?” And of course, sewer systems are not existent.

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In keeping with the consequences of this COVID-19 pandemic time, you can see this this issue is a combination of November and December. That leaves us with 11 printed issues of Trenchless Technology this year. We look forward to providing you with 12 monthly issues in 2021. This has certainly been a year of web and Zoom meetings. Accordingly, we’ve expanded our online presence big time.

Merry Christmas and All the Best in 2021,

Bernard P. Krzys, Publisher

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