On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“Act”). Often commonly referred to as the U.S. Stimulus Package, the Act provides local governments, businesses, and consumers with U.S. $287 billion in tax cuts and U.S. $500 billion in discretionary spending and aid, for a total of U.S. $787 billion in inducements, for the purpose of spurring the U.S. economy out of recession. This is truly an unprecedented measure.
A large proportion of the funding provided by the Act has been earmarked for the energy, transportation, and science and technology sectors. Given the tremendous amount of funds potentially available and given the close-knit nature of the Canadian and U.S. economies, there may be substantial opportunities for Canadian businesses and investors involved in these key sectors to supply goods, services or technology to U.S. counterparts or to otherwise increase their participation in these sectors in the U.S. market. The following discussion provides some basic information about funding provided by the Act with respect to these three particular sectors, but funding is also contemplated for water and waste water infrastructure, healthcare, banking, immigration, construction, commercial real estate, public housing and other industries. (All dollar amounts mentioned below are in U.S. funds).
Although the Act provides some inducements for the development of traditional energy sources, the energy-related initiatives set out in the Act are primarily focused on promoting energy efficiency and conservation, scientific research, and projects for the development of renewable energy, such as biomass, geothermal, wind, solar, and hydro energy. In particular, the Act provides $16.8 billion for the promotion of energy efficiency, such as grants for home weatherization for low- and middle-income families, grants for the manufacturing of energy-efficient vehicle batteries, procurement by local governments of vehicles that use alternative fuels, and funding for applied research and development of renewable energy.
The Act also provides $6 billion for new loan guarantees for renewable energy and bio-fuel projects, $5.5 billion for the construction of energy-efficient government buildings, $3.4 billion for fossil energy research and development, including research and development of clean coal technologies and energy-efficiency improvements, and over $10 billion to modernize and expand the U.S. electricity grid.
In light of these substantial funding commitments, there may be opportunities available for Canadian businesses that provide products, materials, services or technology important for increasing energy efficiency, conservation and “green” energy, scientific research concerning renewable energies, and the generation or transmission of renewable energies.
The Act provides for approximately $48 billion in spending for expansive development of transportation infrastructure throughout the country with a large portion of available funding focused on surface transportation (such as building and repairing highways and bridges), expanding public transportation systems, and upgrading airports and rail systems. In particular, $1.5 billion is allocated for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure, including bridges and highways, $27.5 billion is allocated to the Federal Highway Administration for highway infrastructure investment, $9.3 billion is allocated for investments in rail transportation, including $8 billion for the development of inter-city high speed rail service, $8.4 billion is allocated for grants for public transportation, $1.3 billion is allocated for investments in air transportation (of which $200 million is allocated to the Federal Aviation Administration for improvements to power systems, air route traffic control centres, air traffic control towers, and navigation and landing equipment), and $1.1 billion is allocated for discretionary grants by the Secretary of Transportation for the procurement, installation and commissioning of runway incursion prevention devices and systems at airports.
Canadian businesses involved in the transportation construction industry, including construction companies, engineering firms, materials and equipment suppliers, and others, could have significant opportunities to participate in the many transportation infrastructure projects that will be occurring in the U.S. over the near term.
Science and Technology
The Act provides funds for substantial investment in initiatives designed to promote science and innovation, disease treatment and prevention, and research into developing alternative energy sources. In particular, the Act provides over $11 billion for bio-medical research, including further developing research concerning the prevention and treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and heart disease. The Act also provides $20 billion in spending to improve the country’s healthcare infrastructure, such as the implementation of a certified electronic health record system and improving health information technology for the recording and exchange of electronic medical records to improve the quality of healthcare and efficiencies. In addition, the Act provides over $12 billion for research into developing renewable and alternative energy, over $11.7 billion for modernization of technology infrastructure, and $7 billion to provide broadband infrastructure to expand internet access to rural or underserved areas.
There may be substantial opportunities available for Canadian scientific research firms or other businesses that provide products, materials, or technology concerning biomedical research, health infrastructure or broadband internet connectivity and, in particular, security features to protect the privacy of health-related information.
Some Final Thoughts
The Act will provide significant opportunities for companies to finance projects through tax relief, direct grants and loan guarantees. Canadian companies will require the expertise of both Canadian and U.S. professionals to actively work together to analyze what loans or funding programs would be available for specific projects and any qualifying requirements, and to assist in evaluating the benefits and limitations of the procurement and timing for such funding. Qualifying for government programs may have the associated benefit of assisting in making credit financing more accessible to investors, manufacturers, vendors and contractors. However, the government administration to facilitate funding programs needs to be fully implemented and applicants may experience delays in funding and the imposition of conditions, including funding and construction deadlines and accounting and reporting requirements to ensure transparency regarding the use of such funding, which will have to be carefully calculated as part of the merits and components of any project and its timelines.
In general, therefore, taking the initiative to explore and effect opportunities within the suggested areas will require the involvement of professionals who have expertise in each of the two jurisdictions and who also have experience with cross-border matters. Hopefully, the professionals hired to assist will also have their own connections and partnering experiences that may be beneficial to the endeavour.