“If we fail to make the investment in our aging transportation infrastructure, our economy will suffer. Our transportation system is the backbone of the economy, and it drives growth in sectors beyond construction.” — Robert Stevens, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers

The amount of money the federal government currently invests each year in state highway, bridge and public transit infrastructure programs — about $50 billion — contributes to the country’s economy in ways that may not be obvious. Each dollar of federal investment in transportation infrastructure adds between $1.82 and $2.00 to the annual gross domestic product in the U.S., according to a report released by IHS Global on Wednesday. It also contributes to about 614,000 jobs and increases household income by an average of $410.

The report was commissioned by the Transportation Construction Coalition – a group of 31 national associations and labor unions that is co-chaired by the Associated General Contractors of America and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. (read more…)

Thomas Piketty’s book ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ became a surprising bestseller earlier this year. It documents the increasing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands. And it raises the important concern that, because the rate of return on capital investment exceeds the growth of the economy, we face a future division of society into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ based on inherited wealth, with a return to the social conditions and class divide of Europe in the 19th century.

But, while there has certainly been an increasing concentration of wealth in recent years, it has little to do with high returns on capital investment, especially with high returns on investing inherited wealth. The fortunes of roughly 70% of those in the Forbes list of the richest 400 US citizens are self made. We are talking about people like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, George Soros of the Quantum fund or Henry Kravis of KKR. (read more…)

The U.S. economy has made steady progress since last year, registering an average score of 59 on the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2015 CFO Outlook survey. This is an increase of six points from last year on the 100-point index, with 100 representing an exceptionally strong economy.

The survey tallies responses from 603 financial services sector executives for firms with revenues between $25 million and $2 billion. Most participants reported a bright outlook for their companies.

“With a steadily improving economy as a backdrop, growth is top of mind for CFOs in 2015,” said Alastair Borthwick, head of Global Commercial Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Companies are moving from maintaining their position to growing in earnest by hiring new employees and taking steps to expand.”

Fifty-two percent of survey respondents expected their companies to hire more full-time workers in 2015, the first time in seven years that metric has risen above 50%. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by First Clearing.

Dale E. Brown, CAE, is the founding President & CEO of the Financial Services Institute (FSI). Established in 2004, FSI is the only organization advocating on behalf of independent financial services firms and independent financial advisors. FSI’s mission is to create a healthier regulatory environment for their members through aggressive and effective advocacy, education and public awareness. FSI represents 100 independent firms and 37,000 independent financial advisors, reaching more than 15 million households. We spoke with Dale about the state of the industry and where he sees opportunities for 2015.

Question: Do you think more advisors are finally getting serious about succession planning?

Dale Brown: If you look at all the advisors in the country, most surveys will say the answer is no. However, when it comes to independent financial advisors, we do see a trend in our FSI advisor members taking succession planning seriously. (read more…)

The turning point in the building industry dawned in May 2014, when the “total employment level reached its prerecession level” and companies stopped looking in the rear-view mirror trying to outrun the Great Recession and started to think again of the future. So said Alex Carrick, North American chief economist at CMD during last week’s webinar on the state of the industry.

The webinar, hosted by CMD, formerly Reed Construction Data, and sponsored by Infotech, also included the industry’s other top economists, Ken Simonson of the Associated General Contractors of America and Kermit Baker of the American Institute of Architects who proffered their perspectives.

The construction-labor picture

The unemployment rate in the industry has fallen to 6.5% in October from 17.3% four years ago, Simonson says. However, while that rate is still coming down, the employment rate is nowhere close to 10 million employed during the peak period because lots have left industry, say Simonson and Carrick. (read more…)