Shovel ready

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In politics, a shovel ready construction project (usually larger-scale infrastructure) is where planning and engineering is advanced enough that—with sufficient funding—construction can begin within a very short time. The term was popularized by then-U.S. president-elect Obama in 2008.

In 2010, then-U.S. president Obama declared he had come to realize that there is "no such thing as shovel-ready projects."[1][2]


The term was first used in print in 1995.[3]

Writing for The Washington Post, writer Manuel Roig-Franzia sardonically suggested that the phrase did not exist and had never before been used until President Barack Obama used it during an interview with Meet the Press on 6 December 2008.[4][5] Obama used the phrase to describe infrastructure projects that were ready to immediately receive stimulus funding of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[6]

Later, other commentators suggested the phrase denoted projects which were able to begin construction within a specific time-frame of three or four months[7] on a use it or lose it basis.


In the US[edit]

Having originated in the United States, the term is now used generally in reference to projects which are candidates for economic stimulus spending: money put into a shovel ready project will have a more immediate impact on the economy than money spent on a project on which a great deal of time must elapse for architecture, zoning, legal considerations or other such factors before labor can be deployed on it.[citation needed]

In Iowa, the Seven County Corridor Alliance (Benton County, Cedar County, Iowa County, Johnson County, Jones County, Linn County and Washington County) established a Shovel Ready Certification Program to certify projects as shovel ready that will be added to a local, regional and statewide inventory of sites with similar qualifications and will be strongly marketed.[8]

The Georgia Department of Transportation has established specific criteria projects must meet to be considered shovel ready including National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) clearances and relevant property acquisition requirements.[9]

In Australia[edit]

In Australia, the term is also used in relation to stimulus funding, specifically funding programs like the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program.[10] In 2009, the term shovel-ready won the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year award.[11]

In the UK[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the phrase has been used on a number of occasions by Vincent De Rivaz, the Chief Executive of EDF Energy, in the context of a proposed new nuclear power station in Somerset.[12][13][14]

As in the rest of the United Kingdom, in Scotland, the phrase is used in a similar context. For example, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil, used the term in March 2012 to describe the status of 36 infrastructure projects on a list handed to the government of the United Kingdom for potential funding.[15]


  1. ^ "Obama: "No Such Thing as Shovel-Ready Projects"". CBS News.
  2. ^ PETER BAKER (12 October 2010). "The Education of President Obama". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 November 2021. He realized too late that "there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects" when it comes to public works
  3. ^ "Shovel-ready", Dictionary
  4. ^ President Obama on Meet the Press to describe projects for his stimulus plan during a Meet the Press interview - [1]
  5. ^ Obama Brings "Shovel-Ready" Talk Into Mainstream by Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post (8 January 2009)
  6. ^ "The Obama Buzzword That Hit Pay Dirt", Washington Post
  7. ^ "Shovel ready" projects aim to get money working fast by Robert Gavin, Boston Globe (20 January 2009)
  8. ^ Shovel Ready Iowa: Archived 2012-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Program Overview (2012)
  9. ^ Georgia Department of Transportation FAQ: What does “shovel-ready” mean? (30 July 2010)[dead link]
  10. ^ Springs plan "shovel ready", The Mercury (4 July 2012)
  11. ^ "Shovel-ready" wins Macquarie's word of year, Herald Sun (3 February 2010)
  12. ^ Hinkley Point is "shovel ready"
  13. ^ Q193 reply "We are shovel ready"
  14. ^ "The project at Hinkley Point C is now “shovel-ready”"
  15. ^ Shovel ready projects (Press Release), Alex Neil (9 March 2012)