What would you do if there came a day without water?

Most Americans take water for granted. They turn on the tap, and clean water flows out. They take a shower or flush the toilet, and dirty water goes away. We hardly think twice about the infrastructure that brings water to our homes, and safely returns water to the environment – but we should. The reality is, a surprising amount of water infrastructure in the Carolinas is aging and even failing. While most of us cannot imagine a day without water, there are many communities that have lived, and are living, without water because they don’t have safe and reliable infrastructure. As citizens go to the polls next month to vote in the midterm elections, the next wave of lawmakers in both state legislature and Washington need to make water a priority so no American has to imagine a day or life without water.

Today, October, 10, we are proud to team with thevalueofwater.org to raise awareness of this risk.

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A Day Without Water = Crisis

What does a day without water really mean? It means no water to shower or flush the toilet, no water to drink or cook with, and no water to do laundry or dishes. A single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion in economic activity at risk and would make it impossible for doctors, firefighters, and farmers to serve our communities. Our water infrastructure supports every facet of our daily lives – both personal and in business, but our water infrastructure is facing incredible challenges. Demographic and climate pressures, such as increased natural disasters, drought, flooding, and wildfire, threaten our infrastructure and increase the possibility of a day without water. These challenges look different to different communities and will require local solutions, but it’s clear that reinvestment in our water systems must be a national priority.

Reinvestment in Water Infrastructure = Opportunity

The good news is that closing our nation’s water infrastructure gap would generate over $220 billion in total annual economic activity, create and sustain over a million jobs, and guarantee our public health and environmental safety. National polling shows 88% of Americans support increasing federal investment to rebuild water infrastructure, and 75% of Americans want Congress to invest in our nation’s water infrastructure before our systems fail.

So how do we make the most of this opportunity?   No other issue facing our public officials has such a broad consensus, and 2018's elections are some of the easiest ways to vote for leaders who share our values. Make sure you are registered and then take the time to go and make sure your voice is heard. Then, while we’re waiting for changes to be made on a broader scale we can all find ways to give back locally. For example, find a time to volunteer for a river cleanup or fundraiser with Sound Rivers, a nonprofit that guards the health of the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River Basins. However you choose to speak up and get involved, investing in our water means no American will have to imagine a day without water.

2017 - Year in Review

2017 at The Wooten Company was a banner year with the help of newly recruited top talent, an invigorated dedication to client-relationships, and a much-needed focus on infrastructure across the country.

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As we look back over the past 12 months, it feels like last week that our firm stormed into 2017 with more bookings and backlog than we can remember, but judging by what has been accomplished the company’s dedicated staff never batted an eye.  From gaining footholds in new geographic markets to ushering in a new era of proactive asset management and even receiving awards for outstanding design work, the year has been a blur and we’re ever-grateful to share some of its highlights.

A Growing Family

Competition for talent in our industry is more intense than ever, and this means that the caliber of people who joined us this year is equally impressive. Many new faces were added to our team in 2017, and even several familiar ones returned from other endeavors. We are proud to say that this diverse and highly-qualified group brings education and experience from across the nation (and even overseas) to our clients as they provide for the health and welfare of their communities. In addition to new leadership in both Lester Lowe and Ed Reams who are leading our Site Civil Practice Group and Utility Coordination Teams, respectively, we welcomed more than a dozen others to the Wooten Family.

Tackling New Challenges for New Clients

The Strategic Plan Update that began in 2014 prescribed some very aggressive goals for the company to achieve. Not the least of which was an expansion into South Carolina to offer our expertise in water and sewer infrastructure. Thanks to the commitment of Regional Manager Chad Easter and the trust of devoted community leaders, we began working on projects throughout the State and are delighted to say that 2017 was a terrific success.

On top of this excitement, each of our Regional Offices and both Departments have been equally tireless, deepening our relationships with existing customers and building trust with new ones. All told the company began work on projects for more than 20 new clients in 2017.

Keeping up with the Changes

At both the State and Federal level, 2017 was full of twists and turns in legislature, keeping our resident policy watchers hard at work. And although there are always some areas where work needs to be done, there are also plenty of opportunities to celebrate.

It has been a productive year for many local governments in regards to asset management and investing in proactive maintenance with the help of Asset Inventory and Assessment funds from NCDEQ. Our teams put in countless hours assisting with applications for these grants, and this year those teams began working on plans for over a dozen communities - many of which are now in the implementation phase of adopting Wooten Technologies’ AMOS software (as a side note, look for big news on this front early in 2018).

The momentum behind the healthy and happy cities trend also barreled forward in 2017, and with the help of new Site Civil Practice Manager Lester Lowe, the company has been helping carry this torch for many of our clients. Lester brings to the firm a career in designing the parks, trails and community amenities that support this vision and his team is working hard to promote and develop assets that our friends and neighbors can be proud to have in their backyards.

NCDOT experienced some radical changes, and under the leadership of Secretary Jim Trogdon and COO Bobby Lewis, the amount of let contracts doubled in 2017. This means that right-of-ways need to be acquired and existing water, sewer, gas and telecommunications infrastructure relocated to allow for road improvements and aging bridge replacements. Under the leadership of Utility Coordination Manager Ed Reams, we are positioned to help our clients and other engineering firms with these difficult utility relocation and coordination efforts.

Of course happy and healthy citizens also need to pay the bills, and just this week Governor Cooper announced a landmark occasion introducing the first client of the Kingsboro Megasite in Edgecombe County. Triangle Tyre, a Chinese tire manufacturer, will build their first manufacturing facility in the U.S. bringing more than 800 jobs and over $2.4 billion in economic impact to the State’s economy. As the engineering firm selected to provide water and sewer infrastructure to this new industrial park, we couldn’t be more proud of our involvement with such an impactful project.  This was not the only jobs-related announcement this year either, as Billie Hansen will attest, and because we are fortunate to live in one of the most desirable parts of the country, every department and office of the company has rolled up their sleeves in the planning and design efforts associated with economic development.

With clients aggressively investing in new growth-related infrastructure, regular repair and maintenance, and preventative planning for the future, it would be easy to assume that our teams couldn’t handle much more, but 2017 also revolved around one more challenge: cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew. Matthew may have devastated the Southeast U.S. almost a year and a half ago, but the storm targeted some of the company’s longest standing clients and our dedicated staff put in whatever time it took this year to help get them back on their feet. It is our commitment as a profession to care and look out for the public welfare and we know that clients depend on us for that. We are grateful to be in a position to help.

Giving Thanks

So during this joyous time of year, we would like to give thanks to our employees, our clients, and our partners for their shared devotion, and we wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year. 

The Wooten Company stands with Rural America on the “America First” budget

Rural America is the backbone of our great Country. It is where our ancestral roots began, it is where we look to find our food, it is where urban centers flock to on long weekends, and it is where many of us live, work and raise our families today.

Since 1936, The Wooten Company has focused our efforts on infrastructure in Rural America, and we have long viewed the federal government as one of our strongest partners in looking out for the health and welfare of these communities. Communities where tax bases often rely on less than 5,000 residents, and where many of those families survive below the poverty line.

Announced in early May, President Trump outlined his “America First” Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Under this plan, the Administration has proposed eliminating many programs that are essential resources for Rural America. These resources include the Under Secretary for Rural Development at USDA (the only sub-cabinet position focused exclusively on assisting low-income rural and farming communities) and the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program of the USDA (the financing life-line for rural infrastructure needs).  Such eliminations are in addition to dramatic cuts to rural development programs that will severely impact people from economically distressed rural communities.

To put it in numbers, our firm alone has been able to improve the safety and cleanliness of water and sewer infrastructure in more than 30 North Carolina communities where ratepayers simply cannot afford to stomach the rates necessary to maintain this infrastructure, due in a very large part to USDA Rural Development staff and programs.

The Wooten Company, alongside thousands of rural communities throughout the country, is concerned that without this critical financing source, our hometowns will not be able to provide the resources essential for healthy families and economic development.

These vital tools protect and enhance economic health and vitality. USDA has been our partner for decades and we must protect the institution that it is and the role it plays in our hometowns. We stand beside our clients and neighbors in insisting that the USDA remain supported by the Trump Administration.  Removing this invaluable asset will negatively impact the families of Rural America, the very people looking for help the most.

Over our 80 years we have worked with communities to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in USDA funds. More importantly, these funds have allowed for matching other resources including Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, Clean Water State Revolving Fund, Rural Economic Development, Clean Water Management Trust Fund and Community Development Block Grants. Every dollar of support taken away from these communities is amplified across every resource currently available to them.

The Fiscal Year 2018 budget is not an “America First” proposal, and The Wooten Company is standing united with Rural America as we work tirelessly with representatives at both the State and Federal levels to ensure it receives the support it deserves.