September 2014

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20 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | September 2014 Public Policy Editor's Note: We learned about Mike Thompson's struggle when AED President and CEO Brian McGuire visited the Birmingham, Ala.-based Cat dealership this spring – Mike's passion about the importance of standing up against self- appointed environmentalism spurred a conversation with the editor that resulted in the following narrative as well as a firsthand account at the AED/Infor Executive Forum this month, on Sept. 18. Please don't miss the chance to learn more by talking to Mike in person – register for this dealer stakeholders event at www.aednet.org. The Coalition For Regional Transportation (CRT) is a group that is solely focused on improving infrastructure and transportation in the Birmingham metro area. It originally organized under the authority of the Birmingham Business Alliance (local Chamber) but it became a separate nonprofit organization in 2008 and is autonomous in its activities. We are composed of equip- ment dealers, banks, insurance companies, utilities, the Home Builders Association and a paid executive director, consultants, and attorneys. I joined this group over four years ago and much effort and progress have occurred. We have been successful to date because of our singular focus to beginning our adopted project, the Northern Beltline. It is a 52-mile interstate that would serve many communities north of our city. As this article is published, we have only let one section of this road, a two-mile stretch through the most mountainous area north of town. This stretch connects two north-south Alabama highways and will open in 2016. The entire interstate project is forecast to let all construction in 25 years. The greatest challenge for our project going forward is federal funding. We are fortunate to be designated an Appalachian Development Highway through the 13-state Appalachian Region Commission. This was formed by Congress to build infrastructure in these states to accelerate the economies in each state. Most other states have completed their interstates, but Alabama chose to concentrate their efforts elsewhere until now. The second and equal enemy of our project is the environmental community. River Alliances, River Keepers, River Societies and Environmental Centers are all titles of groups that value no-growth in our region. They are all run individually but many times form alliances to oppose major projects. Years ago, I saw a list of 80 such groups throughout my state. From Day 1, these groups opposed the Northern Beltline. These groups are well funded and use our court system and the local media to achieve their mission. For the most part, our local media is completely in the camp of the no-growth groups. Our local media sees no benefit in infrastructure improvement and want to Right of Way A Dealer's Story About Fighting No-Growth Environmental Extremism Cat dealer Mike Thompson chose action – against powerful, well-funded groups with media sympathy – for the sake of his customers. He urges all dealers to stand up for what's right in their regions, too. BY MIKE THOMPSON

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