In any industry, those who are connected get the jobs (no pun intended). It’s no different in the electrical construction industry. If you are reading this column, you are already part of the “in crowd” (Intelligent Infrastructure Insights). You want some pragmatic insights into where the action is, or will be for 2017, and well into 2018 and 2019.

Where are more potential opportunities for electrical contractors in 2017?

When it comes to assessing business opportunities for electrical and communications network contractors, business owners have become very skeptical on leads, RFPs and real projects to bid on.

Why? Other factors come into play. There could be many contractors vying for the same job. Or, the job itself is not spelled out right, and to bid on it would be a waste of time and resources.

Taking the old adage and updating it to fit this situation, a bird in the hand is worth a dozen in the bush. In marketing and selling work today, one of my cardinal rules is, “Learn when to walk away from bad business.” And if you add some Kenny Rogers to that, “Learn when to run!”

Last month, I pointed out some potential opportunities for electrical contractors involving the use of drone technology for inspections and infrastructure reviews. Another growing area that parallels it is the anti-drone market. For as many applications as there are for the use of drones in inspections and surveillance, there are many more for those who want to keep drones and their high-performance cameras away from their properties, their infrastructure (railroads, pipelines, etc.) and other areas that require privacy.

Think about the proving-ground, test tracks for new cars up in Detroit. (Who wouldn’t want to get some early pictures of the next-generation Corvette or the design lines on the next Ford Mustang?) The same goes for movie sets filming the last critical episode of the season of “The Walking Dead” or the treasure hunt on, “The Curse of Oak Island,” or then next Pirates of the Caribbean movie with Johnny Depp.

How do you protect this intellectual property from being captured and shown prematurely? This is a new business segment to spend some time in to see if you have any interest in expanding into these parallel areas. To be forewarned, it is still an industry segment in its infancy. Proceed with caution, but there is real money to be made.

Another area that could add some new opportunities is the project being kicked around by President Trump and his advisors. Getting a piece of the action would be a good thing for many contractors that are hurting for business at this time.

New presidency? What’s in it for me?

The trillion-dollar infrastructure project Trump has kicked around in some speeches needs to be discussed, refined, and worked up into a real project. Having a project to upgrade and replace aging infrastructure could be a great thing for the country, if managed correctly. Not only would it create a new area for contractors to make some payroll, all the work would upgrade aging infrastructure and push America in a more competitive position globally.

If it were up to me, I would establish new intelligent Infrastructure (power and broadband connectivity) initiatives, which would not only add immediate job creation, it would provide a long-term, residual benefit to all users who utilize the services to conduct business as well as everyday life.

Infrastructure has so many definitions, most people do not think about or address all the layers when they talk about “doing something for improving the infrastructure.” Many think it is only about roads, bridges, and railroads, but it is much more encompassing than that. The “Platform for Commerce” provides a clear and concise view of all the layers of infrastructure (See chart).

The “Platform for Commerce” concept was first developed as a white paper for the Department of Homeland Security for its “Workshop on Aging Infrastructure” Conference. It discussed intelligent infrastructure, securing regional sustainability, and the need to develop an all-inclusive framework detailing all layers so we could start with everyone from different industries and disciplines on the same page.

The concept was later refined in my book and also adopted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in their Handbook in 2014. They refer to it as “the business definition of Infrastructure and economic growth.”

Any large-scale infrastructure project needs to take into account the definitions of the “Platform for Commerce” and all of the supportive layers that make up its framework. Getting more project dollars for electrical design and installation projects as well as network infrastructure projects would be part of that total picture of improving infrastructure.