Vote with an engineer's heart

What are the political topics of key importance to professionals in the building industry in the 2012 presidential elections?


With all the political debate swirling around the 2012 presidential campaign, there is a lot to discuss. Hot topics have included abortion and health care, religion and marriage, and foreign affairs and national security.


But what about the topics of key importance to professionals in the building industry? Some seemingly remote topics are important; health care comes to mind because it's the engineers and architects who will be tasked with designing new buildings or retrofitting existing buildings. And while foreign affairs seems like a detached topic, it's quite attached to the buildings industry in that we (Americans) invest a lot in other countries, from manufacturing facilities to military bases.


In no particular order, here are three topics you should watch closely in the presidential debates. The candidates may not talk about these at length in a debate-some stuff just isn't sexy. But the outcome of the election could change the way you and your clients do business.


Energy: This topic has received a lot of airplay recently, and in light of recent hurricanes and soaring gas prices, the topic is important to the general public as well. Republican candidate Mitt Romney offers a three-pronged approach: significant regulatory reform, increased production, and research and development. President Barack Obama suggests and "all-of-the-above strategy," which includes various forms of energy-oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more.


Environment: This topic goes hand-in-hand with energy. In this case, President Obama is mostly forward-looking, and according to online information on the topic of the environment, he "has taken unprecedented action to build the foundation for a clean energy economy, tackle the issue of climate change, and protect our environment." Romney's campaign website doesn't address the topic of the environment directly; it's mostly wrapped into the three-pronged energy approach. He is focused on supporting growth while facing environmental challenges.


Education: This area seems like a stretch for engineers and professionals allied with the nonresidential construction industry, but consider this: If our education system does not produce the quality and quantity of qualified professionals to fill jobs being vacated by baby boomers, it will be more difficult (read: more expensive and time-consuming) to complete engineering projects. This includes professionals at all levels of building design: architects and engineers, contractors and skilled labor, and building owners and operators. Both presidential candidates have strong feelings about education, and each has his own idea of how to address America's failing education grade. Romney's long-term strategy for getting American's economy back on track is ensuring a world-class education for American students. President Obama's stance on education is nearly the same.


Before voting with an engineer's heart, be sure to read up on each candidate's plan before you make your choice. I will definitely be listening closely to both candidates.


And just for fun: The Pew Research Center has an interesting quiz that will help you determine where you fit into the political typology. This might help you when making a decision on Nov. 6, 2012.

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