Astec’s Ben Brock: “Best shot we’ve had in 10 years” to get out of highway funding dead end

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highway traffic

All the talk about the upcoming highway bill reauthorization—now in an extension until May—had a familiar ring to Ben Brock, president and CEO, Astec Industries. “I’ve been around this industry all of my life and I was starting to hear the same stories,” he told me during a break at the National Asphalt Pavement Association annual meeting this week.

This time, however, he believes there is a golden opportunity for things to be different. “I think this is the best shot we’ve had in 10 years,” Brock says of passing a long-term funding bill. Fuel prices are down, there’s several new people in Congress and people are seeing the direct result of neglect on the roads they drive. Which is why Astec has started the “Don’t Let America Dead End” campaign.

Brock readily admits the idea is hardly revolutionary: a website page——dedicated solely to prompting people to write their Congressional delegation in support of a long-term highway fix … again and again. “The only reason for the website is to get people to contact Congress in support of long term highway funding,” he says.

“The initial process takes about four minutes,” he says. In fact, the “take action” button on the Astec site goes directly to the Association of Equipment Manufacturer’s “I Make America” site, which already had a “send a letter” function. Give your name, address and email, and a letter to President Obama and your specific Congressional delegation pops up. Don’t like the wording? You can delete part or all of it all and write your own message.

Letter writing campaigns have long been part and parcel of politics. But while associations are good at motivating their membership, Brock didn’t see the highway funding message going to vendors, clients and their employees, who also have a direct stake in the issue. So Astec send out a kit – FedEx’d to select vendors and clients –- detailing the campaign and asking for leadership on this issue. His hope? That these people will pass on the message to their employees and customers in all 50 states, who will be motivated to repeatedly contact their delegations, especially leading up to May, when funding for the Highway Trust Fund runs out.  He notes that once you’re in the system, another letter from you takes about 30 seconds to send (unless, like me, you’re the type that wants to use their own words).

Repeatability is key, Brock says. “Our goal is to get everyone to contact them at least once a month through May. Typically, a member of Congress will get a list from their staff detailing how many people they heard from on a certain issue, pro and con. We’re trying to make it easy for the industry to help themselves.”

And unlike most corporate ideas, Brock is urging people to steal away; anyone who wants to use it is welcome to do so. “It’s the best shot we’ve had in 10 years, so we need to give it our best shot,” he says.