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October 31, 2008



Pat Natale, executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers, knows his 146,000 individual members’ message to Congress about maintenance and infrastructure is “not sexy.” But he says a look at history could give an answer to both the economic meltdown and the $1.6 trillion infrastructure crisis facing the nation. We wonder about those cracks in the sidewalk, too, so we ventured out to ASCE’s Reston office for an explanation.


Back in the ‘30s—before Pat’s wife could even buy bright pink ties for him—FDR decided the way out of the Great Depression was to put Americans to work on public projects. Pat says a second stimulus package being debated in Congress should include money for infrastructure, like fixing the 25% of America’s 600,000 bridges that the Federal Highway Administration has identified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. (The next ASCE report card comes out in March). Pat says every $1 billion spent on infrastructure supports more than 30,000 jobs, and greater political leadership is urgently needed.


Pat enjoys visiting his wife’s pre-school class to help them build domes out of toothpicks and gumdrops. He says the children learn about engineering (triangles create the strongest support frames), and the activity gets children and their parents to think more broadly about who can become an engineer (not just math and science whizzes). Pat says he works with the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, the National Academy of Engineering, and others to create a common message about the need for engineers: They improve the quality of life. ASCE also creates educational material from the pre-school to high school level to pique students’ interest.


Pat’s a sports nut. (Here pictured after throwing a curveball at the camera). Prior to his six years at the top of ASCE, he had a 28-year career as a civil engineer, including GM for marketing at his native New Jersey’s Public Service Electric & Gas. Since he steered the advertising dollars, he decided to sponsor the NY Giants, Yankees, NJ Devils, and Seton Hall basketball. To meet America’s engineering needs (and to save money and the environment), Pat says companies and individuals will have to take a “holistic approach” to infrastructure improvement and encourage things like telecommuting and flexible hours.


ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership know that volunteerism is part of what associations do in their community. That’s why 60 ASAE staffers participated yesterday in the Fall Day of Service, spanning four different sites around the city. The 13 pictured helped clean Riverside Center at Watts Branch Park in Capitol Heights. ASAErs kept warm by sweeping, painting and stacking chairs for a community event today.


Greater Washington Network’s Mike Skiados and Manager of Industry and Market Research Haisong Peng show how it’s done. Haisong, a sports fan, says he volunteered for the Legg Mason Tennis Classic this summer, but this winter he’s hoping to volunteer some personal time on the slopes in Utah, where he recommends Beaver Mountain.

Arent Fox
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