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Whitmer at national governors event: Improving infrastructure improves lives

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer talking about infrastructure resiliency.jpg
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer talking about infrastructure resiliency.jpg
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In Michigan, infrastructure typically is associated with bridges and orange construction barrels lining hundreds of miles of roads that seemingly are always in need of patching up; At a national event in Detroit, the idea of infrastructure was expanded and the focus was put on other frameworks of daily life was put on display.

The National Governors Association held a two-day summit on infrastructure and cybersecurity in Detroit. While Michiganders are no stranger to the topic of improving roads, the issue of cybersecurity and its role in the conversation was elevated.

The summit is part of a four-stop tour and pushed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as one of his initiatives as chair of the group. To keep moving ahead, it’s important to repair, expand and modernize the infrastructure that will allow economies to grow, create jobs and meet the needs of the 21st century, according to Hogan and his initiative. To improve cybersecurity, Hogan said it starts with education – early and often.

“It’s something that we’ve been focused on in Maryland, we’ve started at a younger and younger age and we’ve now got these kinds of courses in every school,” he said Tuesday at the event in downtown Detroit.

Hogan said Maryland has created specific programs for young girls, due to what he called a “huge gender gap” involved in the coding craft.

“It’s important, those are the jobs of the future,” he said.

The issue knows no political boundaries and with the 2020 election just over a year away, the idea of election tampering is front and center.

“There’s no question that it’s an issue and as the technology continues to improve and expand, we’re trying to do more and more elections, people are trying to do elections by mail, elections online in some states, it just opens up the possibility of more interference,” Hogan said. “It’s just one example of where cyber security is critically important to make sure that nobody can infiltrate our election systems.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer added that not only is cybersecurity a critical concern for elections, but almost all other aspects of a person’s life.

“Like the delivery of your water to your ability to communicate to your ability to turn on your heat when you go to turn it on to your child’s school. A cyber-attack can take down a school district in a minute,” Whitmer said. “It permeates everything, from elections to making sure the heats on.”

Whitmer hosted a session Friday focused on infrastructure, weather and how communities and state governments can create resilient projects that will last the test of Mother Nature.

The Federal Highway Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has committed the agency to integrating climate risk considerations into the delivery and stewardship of its programs. From floods to wildfires, natural disasters can take a toll on a community’s valuable infrastructure.

Michigan conducted a climate-based vulnerability assessment of primarily Michigan Department of Transportation-owned and operated infrastructure and was completed in 2014 as part of 19 national pilot projects funded by the FHA.

The study showed most of the highest-risk assets were located in the southern part of the state, mostly due to the greater amount of travel. During extreme precipitation, the biggest areas of concern were found in and around the major metropolitan areas in the southern-third of the Lower Peninsula.

Whitmer said solutions are going to be found in partnerships between government agencies and the private sector who also make investments in their businesses.

Hogan said leveraging private sector investments would help states invest in projects to improve infrastructure and ensure security for people across the country.

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