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"Internal Improvements"

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by trice, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. trice

    trice Major

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    Internal improvements are generally defined as Canals, River Navigations, Roads, Turnpikes, Bridges, Railroads, etc. The period of greatest Federal support for these "internal improvements" appears to have been before 1837, and Andrew Jackson is the President associated the most with stepping on it.

    We often hear about Southern opposition to "internal improvements" as a cause for the war, but I have never seen any discussion of what these "internal improvements" were in the 1850s and why the South was so upset by them. Does anyone have any facts to put forth here?

    I can't say that I have much.

    The single most expensive asset the US owned in 1860 was almost surely the great drydock at the Navy yard in Norfolk, VA. Did "the South" object to that?

    The system of coastal defenses being constructed might count, but Southern ports seemed to be covered about as well as Northern ones. Military posts for the Army and Navy of any kind might be part of this -- but again "the South" seems to have been about equal to "the North" in that sort of thing.

    The RR to California might be regarded as a major one, and indeed it was hotly debated in the 1850s -- but Southerners seemed to have been quite interested in the "southern route" from New Orleans, across Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The Gadsden Purchase (roughly 30,000 square miles, now largely in Arizona, purchased for $10,000,000 in 1853) was largely seen as a way to provide for a non-mountainous route with water for that RR. Hard to see that as a bone of contention.

    The US Navy had a major base at Pensacola (and was pushed by Congress into building others at New Orleans and Memphis they didn't really want). Seems fairly equitable, and naval power protected the country, really, not just pieces of it.

    Can anyone list the "internal improvements" issues of the 1840s and 1850s for us?

    Tim
     

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  3. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    About three or four years ago, someone posted a table showing expenditures over about 40 years and, yes, my recollection is that the most lopsided were in the 1830s. After that, they became more equitable, especially since the northern population was growing so much faster than the southern population.

    In any event, "all our money is spent in the north" is one of those emotional claims made to justify secession -- if you say it and keep saying it, it becomes accepted.

    ole
     
  4. Freddy

    Freddy 2nd Lieutenant

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    This author believes internal improvements played a role.

    From the link:

    1850's Transportation & Politics


    Railroads and Sectionalism by John Crandall

    "The Mexican War, and the acquisition of California presented new problems and possibilities. A railway to the west coast seemed like an ideal way to consolidate and protect these new gains. Naturally Southerners wanted a Southern route for the railroad, and Northerners wanted a Northern route. This dispute raised the old question of the proper role of the federal government in internal improvements, and effectively insured that federal funds or land grants for either route were not forthcoming. In the South many were angered by abolitionists pamphlets sent south by rail by Northerners who considered their motives to be purely philanthropic. Meanwhile, not surprisingly, many from the central States, including Stephen Douglas, thought that a central route was the perfect compromise. The problem was that a central route would have to go over land not yet organized as Territories."

    "Additionally, the South had fewer railroads than the North, and this fact would hinder their war effort after sectional discord was fanned into secession and Civil War. Thus, the railroads, and particularly the transcontinental railroad are causal factors in both the Civil War and its outcome. Slavery, differing moral norms, and different concepts of the meaning and purpose of the federal government are probably more important causes for the war, but transportation also plays an important part."
    http://transportationhistory.suite101.com/blog.cfm/1850s_transportation__politics
     
  5. Beowulf

    Beowulf Banned

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    The Texas Declaration of the Causes of Secession has some monetary discussion in it...

    B-
     
  6. trice

    trice Major

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    Texas speaks of several things, but not in any way that leads to "internal improvements".

    Texas does complain of things that seem unrealistic. With more than 1/8th of the US Army in Texas to protect them against Indian raids and bandits, they complained that the US wasn't doing enough to protect them. That might or might not be true, since "enough" is a matter of viewpoint. But "the South" was a partner to all the decisions about military spending before the war -- if Texas was shortchanged, Southern Congressman were among those limiting what they got. Hard to see how that justifes seceding to join the people who were in harge of the shortchanging (the Buchanan administration beinglargely Southern).

    A lot of what Texas says, though, is factually wrong if you look into it. Much of it is also just wrong-headed to anyone who knows economics.

    Tim
     
  7. Beowulf

    Beowulf Banned

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    Strode mentions in one of the Davis volumes he wrote that
    There was a WEST no one mentions much, and connection with the trade with that WEST was a competition between North and South. The Transcontinental Railroad, and so forth.

    Durand offers some points on the money situation, which
    have footnotes numbered (and listed on line) at the America's Caesar website:

    The South's Traditional Opposition to Protectionism
    [The] contrast between the Northern and Southern minds is vividly illustrated in the different ideas and styles of their worship of that great American idol — the Union. In the North there never was any lack of rhetorical fervor for the Union; its praises were sounded in every note of tumid literature, and it was familiarly entitled "the glorious." But the North worshipped the Union in a very low, commercial sense; it was a source of boundless profit; it was productive of tariffs and bounties; and it had been used for years as the means of sectional aggrandizement.
    The South regarded the Union in a very different light. It estimated it at its real value, and although quiet and precise in its appreciation, and not given to transports, there is this remarkable assertion to be made: that the moral veneration of the Union was peculiarly a sentiment of the South and entirely foreign to the Northern mind. It could not be otherwise, looking to the different political schools of the two sections [emphasis in original].(10)

    Before we proceed with the Fort Sumter narrative, the historical background requires explanation. As most wars have been throughout modern history, the War of 1861 was at bottom a financial conflict.(11) More precisely, it was, as Matthew Josephson noted, a "fatal clash of the two economic nations within the republic" which resulted from a gradual departure on the part of the North "from the old ways toward large-scale industry, toward giant capitalism, [and] toward a centralized, national economy...." and a firm resistance to such change on the part of the South.(12) In a speech delivered in the Virginia Convention of 1788, Patrick Henry had predicted that the South would eventually find itself economically subjugated to the North once the latter had secured to itself a majority in the new federal Government: "This government subjects every thing to the Northern majority. Is there not, then, a settled purpose to check the Southern interest?... How can the Southern members prevent the adoption of the most oppressive mode of taxation in the Southern States, as there is a majority in favor of the Northern States?"(13) Henry's prediction was not long in being realized. As early as 1789, the first impost bill was introduced in Congress which protected the New England fishing industry and its production of molasses, and exhibited, in the opinion of William Grayson, "a great disposition... for the advancement of commerce and manufactures in preference to agriculture." Thus, when the Union under the Constitution was but two months old, many Southerners felt that their States were already being obliged to serve the North as "the milch cow out of whom the substance would be extracted."(14) In a pamphlet published in 1850, Muscoe Russell Garnett of Virginia wrote:
    The whole amount of duties collected from the year 1791, to June 30, 1845, after deducting the drawbacks on foreign merchandise exported, was $927,050,097. Of this sum the slaveholding States paid $711,200,000, and the free States only $215,850,097. Had the same amount been paid by the two sections in the constitutional ratio of their federal population, the South would have paid only $394,707,917, and the North $532,342,180. Therefore, the slaveholding States paid $316,492,083 more than their just share, and the free States as much less.(15)

    From the days of the illustrious Henry onwards, the South had generally stood in the way of the Northern goal to make such an unjust system of taxation permanent.(16) According to John Taylor of Virginia, a high protective tariff system, like that which existed in Great Britain, was "undoubtedly the best which has ever appeared for extracting money from the people; and commercial restrictions, both upon foreign and domestick commerce, are its most effectual means for accomplishing this object. No equal mode of enriching the party of government, and impoverishing the party of people, has ever been discovered."(17) Nevertheless, the North clung tenaciously to its protectionist policy and managed to push through the tariff legislation of 1828 which provoked South Carolina to resistance to the general Government and nearly to secession from the Union during the Administration of Andrew Jackson.(18) It should be noted that, by 1828, the public debt was near to extinction and, at the current rate of taxation on imported goods, a twelve to thirteen million dollar annual surplus would have been created in the Treasury.(19) Thus, the excuse for a high tariff system as a source of Government revenue was a flimsy one at best; the so-called "Tariff of Abomination" really served no other purpose than to "rob and plunder nearly one half of the Union, for the benefit of the residue."(20) James Spence of London explained the effects of such a high tariff on the Southern economy:
    This system of protecting Northern manufactures, has an injurious influence, beyond the effect immediately apparent. It is doubly injurious to the Southern States, in raising what they have to buy, and lowering what they have to sell. They are the exporters of the Union, and require that other countries shall take their productions. But other countries will have difficulty in taking them, unless permitted to pay for them in the commodities which are their only means of payment. They are willing to receive cotton, and to pay for it in iron, earthenware, woollens. But if by extravagant duties, these be prohibited from entering the Union, or greatly restricted, the effect must needs be, to restrict the power to buy the products of the South. Our imports of Southern productions, have nearly reached thirty millions sterling a year. Suppose the North to succeed in the object of its desire, and to exclude our manufactures altogether, with what are we to pay? It is plainly impossible for any country to export largely, unless it be willing also, to import largely. Should the Union be restored, and its commerce be conducted under the present tariff, the balance of trade against us must become so great, as either to derange our monetary system, or compel us to restrict our purchases from those, who practically exclude other payment than gold. With the rate of exchange constantly depressed, the South would receive an actual money payment, much below the current value of its products. We should be driven to other markets for our supplies, and thus the exclusion of our manufactures by the North, would result in a compulsory exclusion, on our part, of the products of the South.
    This is a consideration of no importance to the Northern manufacturer, whose only thought is the immediate profit he may obtain, by shutting out competition. It may be, however, of very extreme importance to others — to those who have products they are anxious to sell to us, who are desirous to receive in payment, the very goods we wish to dispose of, and yet are debarred from this. Is there not something of the nature of commercial slavery, in the fetters of a system that prevents it? If we consider the terms of the compact, and the gigantic magnitude of Southern trade, it becomes amazing, that even the attempt should be made, to deal with it in such a manner as this.(21)

    George McDuffie of South Carolina stated in the House of Representatives, "If the union of these states shall ever be severed, and their liberties subverted, historians who record these disasters will have to ascribe them to measures of this description. I do sincerely believe that neither this government, nor any free government, can exist for a quarter of a century under such a system of legislation."(22) While the Northern manufacturer enjoyed free trade with the South, the Southern planter was not allowed to enjoy free trade with those countries to which he could market his goods at the most benefit to himself. Furthermore, while the six cotton States — South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas — had less than one-eighth of the representation in Congress, they furnished two-thirds of the exports of the country, much of which was exchanged for imported necessities.(23) Thus, McDuffie noted that because the import tariff effectively hindered Southern commerce, the relation which the Cotton States bore to the protected manufacturing States of the North was now the same as that which the colonies had once borne to Great Britain; under the current system, they had merely changed masters.(24)
    Such was the consistent argument of South Carolinian politicians and editorialists right up to the moment of secession in late 1860. Robert Barnwell Rhett, who served in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate, said in 1850: "The great object of free governments is liberty. The great test of liberty in modern times, is to be free in the imposition of taxes, and the expenditure of taxes.... For a people to be free in the imposition and payment of taxes, they must lay them through their representatives."(25) Consequently, because they were being taxed without corresponding representation, the Southern States had been reduced to the condition of colonies of the North and thus were no longer free. The solution was determined by John Cunningham to exist only in independence:
    The legislation of this Union has impoverished them [the Southern States] by taxation and by a diversion of the proceeds of our labor and trade to enriching Northern Cities and States. These results are not only sufficient reasons why we would prosper better out of the union but are of themselves sufficient causes of our secession. Upon the mere score of commercial prosperity, we should insist upon disunion. Let Charleston be relieved from her present constrained vassalage in trade to the North, and be made a free port and my life on it, she will at once expand into a great and controlling city.(26)
    In a letter to the Carolina Times in 1857, Representative Laurence Keitt wrote, "I believe that the safety of the South is only in herself."(27) James H. Hammond likewise stated in 1858, "I have no hesitation in saying that the Plantation States should discard any government that makes a protective tariff its policy."(28)

    John H. Reagan of Texas, who would later become Postmaster-General of the Confederate Government, expressed similar sentiments when addressing the Republican members of the House of Representatives on 15 January 1861:
    You are not content with the vast millions of tribute we pay you annually under the operation of our revenue laws, our navigation laws, your fishing bounties, and by making your people our manufacturers, our merchants, our shippers. You are not satisfied with the vast tribute we pay you to build up your great cities, your railroads, your canals. You are not satisfied with the millions of tribute we have been paying you on account of the balance of exchange which you hold against us. You are not satisfied that we of the South are almost reduced to the condition of overseers of northern capitalists. You are not satisfied with all this; but you must wage a relentless crusade against our rights and institutions....
    We do not intend that you shall reduce us to such a condition. But I can tell you what your folly and injustice will compel us to do. It will compel us to be free from your domination, and more self-reliant than we have been. It will compel us to assert and maintain our separate independence. It will compel us to manufacture for ourselves, to build up our own commerce, our own great cities, our own railroads and canals; and to use the tribute money we now pay you for these things for the support of a government which will be friendly to all our interests, hostile to none of them.(37)
    Less than a week later, on 21 January 1861, an editorial appeared in the New Orleans Daily Crescent which made the same observations:
    They know that it is their import trade that draws from the people's pockets sixty or seventy millions of dollars per annum, in the shape of duties, to be expended mainly in the North, and in the protection and encouragement of Northern interests.... These are the reasons why these people do not wish the South to secede from the Union. They are enraged at the prospect of being despoiled of the rich feast upon which they have so long fed and fattened, and which they were just getting ready to enjoy with still greater gout and gusto. They are as mad as hornets because the prize slips them just as they are ready to grasp it.(38)

    Frank Conner on page 94 of SIEGE says this about the Republican Party platform (from Ludwell H. Johnson NORTH AGAINST SOUTH:

    The Transcontinental Railroad: "Not only would the Republicans Northern route stop the South from establishing trade links with the Far West, but the South would have to bear the ultimate costs (via the import tariff) of building the exorbitantly expensive Northern rail line".

    (A massive internal improvement!)

    "Internal Improvements: The Republicans also wanted to spend large sums of federal money (to be supplied by the South, or course) to improve river navigation, and build harbors, that would benefit the Northern capitalists.

    During the 1850's, the South managed to hold down these expenditures to an average of
    $370,000 a year. In the next decade, when the Republicans ruled supreme, the figure
    averaged $1,272,300 per year - and kept climbing. In 1880, the federal government
    spent $8,080,000 on such projects - almost none of which benefitted the South, where those projects were by then desperately needed, to repair the ravages of (federally-induced) war."


    Hope that helps!

    Beowulf
     
  8. trice

    trice Major

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    Beowulf,

    I think you need to broaden the background of your knowledge and be a bit more critical of your sources.

    On the Transcontinental Railroad, of course there was competition between different interests for it. In the 1850s, Jefferson Davis was a strong supporter of the Southern route, and it was a main reason for the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico for $10 million in 1853. Gadsden was an ardent Southerner, who envisioned the new RR as stretching from Charleston, SC to lower California.

    Southern extremists were upset the Gadsden purchase wasn't larger (a little under 30,000 square miles). Mexicans were upset Santa Anna had sold any of Mexico to the Americans. This was when Southern filibuster William Walker launched his first invasion of a foreign country, trying to take Baja California and Sonora by force. He failed, was arrested and tried on return to CA, but the jury turned him loose in 8 minutes.

    In 1854, Southern political leaders essentially horse-traded support for a northern Transcontinental RR route to Senator Douglas of Illinois (leading supporter of the Chicago to San Francisco route) for the Kansas-Nebraska Act (which might potentially have opened up new slavery territory). Ignoring this, as the sources you are providing do, simply makes them wrong.

    The truth about all these claims the South was paying an "unfair" share of import tariffs is that they are all a bunch of hooey. To begin with, no one knows how mouch tariff ended p being paid by "the South" and how much by the rest of the country. Foreign imports generally came in through Northern ports and were transhipped elsewhere, so the only record of where the tariff was paid would list the port of entry. In 1860, about 2/3rds of all tariffs were paid in the port of New York alone, and about 90% in Northern ports. This trend became particulary obvious after the Erie Canal opened (1825), and even more so after the RR connections from New York and Philadelphia to Ohio and beyond were established -- which means before 1850.

    All the tariffs would have benefitted the South as well as the North -- if the South chose a different path. When Southern extremists tell you that there used to be four shipyards in Charleston in 1775 and there are none in 1860, it wasn't the Tariff that killed them -- it was Southern choices and the forces of economics. Generally speaking, it is hypocrisy for a region that complained about greedy Yankee shopkeepers and greasy mechanics to complain that they had not developed their own economy's manufacturing and commerce.

    But none of this really goes to the point of the thread: what are these "internal improvements" the South was complaining about?

    Tim
     
  9. cedarstripper

    cedarstripper First Sergeant

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    Once a port became a US Port of Entry, the federal government was responsible for wharves, dredging, etc. Bills were commonly proposed in Congress to improve sections of inland rivers to make new areas accessible to commerce. Lighthouses were built along the coastlines and Great Lakes to aid navigation. Teams of US surveyors mapped the territories and coastlines and teams of engineers planned everything from harbor developement to defensive forts. All of these were legitimate federal expenses and benefitted Americans in general.

    I know of no federal monies used prior to the Civil War for building railroads or canals. Financing for these came from states and private investors. The federal government was solicited for funds for the Erie Canal, it being argued that it benefitted the interior as well, but no funds were approved and the project (the largest in the world up to that time) was financed entirely by New York state and private investors. Federal lands were ganted to states for both canal and railroad use, and treaties were secured by the federal government when railroads crossed indian lands. Other than surveying, I know of no appreciable federal support, the responsibility resting with the states and individuals.

    I believe it was John Calhoun who proposed federal monies be given to the states to develope internal improvements, with the bill being vetoed by Madison. Also, IIRC, it was Stephen Douglas who secured one of the first sizable land grants for what would become the Illinois Central RR.

    I think the complaints about federal expenditures on internal improvements is all hot air. Obviously, as the economic developement and population patterns changed, concentrations of improvements will have appeared to favor a particular region at a given time, but thats a little like complaining that a disproportionate amount of money was spent on the Gulf Coast after Katrina hit, and California, Michigan and Pennsylvania didn't get their fair share. For instance, its sensible that along with a boom in commerce accross the Great Lakes, expenditures on lighthouses, breakwalls and wharves would be accelerated for a time to match the growth. The same was true for California. The South had never experienced the rapid growth rate of, say, a Chicago or Buffalo, or San Francisco.

    Cedarstripper
     
  10. cw1865

    cw1865 Sergeant Major

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    Cheap Land

    Well, they were selling/giving land away pretty cheaply. (Of course the population is so low, why wouldn't the land be cheap?)
     
  11. cedarstripper

    cedarstripper First Sergeant

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    The federal land grant to Illinois (1850) was said to be the first of such grants. Naturally as the nation pushed westward into federal territories, the acquirement of federal land would become more common. But it could be argued that the US more than benefitted from this and the federal government directly benefitted also. The mails were carried more cheaply, land values increased dramatically, and the railroads could be used to move troops and supplies at no cost. Although there may have been debate over the route of the first transcontinentals, there was no debate over whether to build them. I think every party's platform in 1860 included a plank calling for a transcontinental railroad.

    I'm not thinking that the complaints we come across about the free states getting much more than their share (some claim 75%) of federal monies is referring to various land grants to states. While its difficult to prove a negative, I'm just stating that I have yet to find bills that were successfully lobbied to the federal government for financing railroads or canals. Find the beginning of a canal or railroad and you'll find a state and/or private investment package. Many a European got burned financing canals here in the states.

    The reasons more track was laid in the North than the South had nothing to do with federal expenditures, but rather with the economies of the two sections. While the North linked commerce together, southern planters were more intersted in building a line to the nearest river or port, where their cotton could be floated away.

    Cedarstripper
     
  12. trice

    trice Major

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    One of the things we need to be aware of is that the geography of the South did not favor canals, inland water transport, or water powered industry. Rivers tended to be slow-moving and shallow. They meandered about, carried a lot of mud, and did not generally run in the right directions or allow deep-draft vessels access.

    Similar issues also got in the way of Baltimore and Philadelphia attempts to compete with the Erie Canal -- making New York the runaway #1 port in the US.

    Tim
     
  13. cedarstripper

    cedarstripper First Sergeant

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    Canals projects were typically intra-state and did not stand a prayer in Congress of receiving any funds. Though the South may have had little desire to build canals, I don't see it as a genuine issue, as canals weren't financed anywhere.

    A harbor and river improvement bill from 1846 apportioned funds: $234,450 to the Northeast; $155,000 to the Northwest; $545,000 to the Great Lakes; and $415,000 to the South. Whether this is an equitable devision depends on your point of view. While 2/3 of the coastline and lands were south of the Mason Dixon line, the majority of shipping tonnage was handled in the north. And while the Atlantic Coast and Gulf had had decades to build their ports, the Great Lakes and West Coast then required work. We are all aware of the duties collected in these northern ports compared to southern ones, so the stage is set for sectional division on whether the expenditures favor one section over another. Anyone wanting to complain can easily find their slant.

    But for me, at the end of the day, while opposing speeches can be found from both sections, the appropriations were made by the Committee of Ways and Means, and had to get past Congresses generally controlled by the South and Presidents carried into office with Southern approval, so I fail to see the cause for bellyaching.

    Cedarstripper
     
  14. trice

    trice Major

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    The Erie Canal was originally voted funding through Congress. President Madison vetoed it (he thought it unconstitutional). Once New York paid for the Erie Canal itself, I doubt you could get any NY Congressman or Senator to support any other state's canal project, particularly if it would compete with the Erie in any way. That would make it real tough for any Southern state to get one through.

    Philadelphia's canal efforts essentially failed because the Susquehanna was too shallow and ran in the wrong direction. Nothing South of there can really get to the goal of the old Northwest because of the Apalachian Mountains.

    Andrew Jackson killed the Mayville Road because it was confined to a single state, one of the key moments in the "internal improvements" battle. The Mayville Road was in KY (what we'd consider a "Southern" state) and was an extension of the National Road coming through the Cumberland Gap.

    The Mississippi Valley was a ripe area for "internal improvements" in the days before the Civil War. Somehow, the US Congress funded a Navy Yard in Memphis with a ropewalk factory (to buy hemp from KY-MO-AR farmers) at a cost of $1 million. The Navy was opposed to building it, being perfectly happy with Pensacola. To put this in perspective, the Congress also voted funding for another Naval Yard the Department of the Navy did not want in New Orleans. The New Orleans Yard was only $100,000. The Memphis facility was a complete boondoggle, a failure in operation, and closed shortly after opening.


    Yes. Think flood control in the Mississippi Valley, where Robert E. Lee had worked on the Mississippi and Missouri River projects as well as improving the harbor at St. Louis. In 1861, the Navy was finishing up a multi-year survey of the Mississippi to make recommendations for the next massive attempt to control the Mississippi. The South had no problem with "internal improvements" that aided Southerners.

    Tim
     
  15. timewalker

    timewalker Cadet

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    I think in order to determine if the appropriations for improvements were "fair" you would have to look at economic and population growth in the regions and see if monies were allocated in accordance with this growth. More growth = more need for improved infrastructure. Hopefully, this will increase the tax base and result in more revenue from those areas. In a perfect world, infrastructure improvements are an investment which pays off in the long run through increased revenues.
     

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