Manufacturers are beginning to throw their weight behind efforts to get one of President Trump’s campaign promises off the ground about industry that he has yet to keep: using it to rebuild America’s infrastructure.
The possibility of a $1-trillion infrastructure push with bipartisan support has disappeared during the first two years of the Trump administration behind other economic priorities including a tax cut, and business deregulation.
But the National Association of Manufacturers has just released an ambitious blueprint for revitalizing the nation’s infrastructure, called “Building to Win 2019.” Originally released before the 2016 elections, the updated proposal serves as NAM’s suggested plan for repairing America’s transportation infrastructure to boost the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and improve all citizens’ lives.
“Manufacturers want to see a game-changing investment in infrastructure because we know that America’s economic competitiveness depends on it,” said David Seaton, Fluor Corp. chairman and CEO, and NAM board chair. “For too long, we’ve depended on the investments of the last generation. Now is the time to build for the future – to build for the next generation and to ensure America never again falls behind.”
Trump himself keeps referring to the need to overhaul America’s infrastructure, such as on Saturday during his speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee.
“We want to fix our country, our bridges, our highways, our roads, our schools, our country,” the president said in his address in Maryland.
With the federal government dithering, more states are taking action on their own infrastructure needs. For example, in Michigan, the new Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, just proposed the imposition of a 45-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax, phased in over a few years, to keep her 2018 campaign promise and “fix the damn roads” in the Wolverine State.
And as NAM noted, every year America is falling further behind the rest of the world on infrastructure. Today, infrastructure investment is only one-third of what it was in 1960. Without action, the nation will lose 5.8 million jobs by 2040, the association said. But with an injection of $1 trillion in American infrastructure over time, “We will create 11 million jobs,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.
“There’s clearly bipartisan support to modernize and revitalize our infrastructure, so now we’re calling on Congress to act,” he said.
NAM isn’t the only organization that’s bothered by the lack of action on infrastructure. Steve Demetriou, Chair and CEO of Jacobs, recently testified on behalf of Business Roundtable in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing.
“For decades, America set the global standard when it came to transformative infrastructure,” Demetriou said in his testimony. “While the benefits are tangible, our national commitment to investing in infrastructure has diminished. And as a business leader, it concerns me that the U.S. spends a smaller share of GDP on infrastructure than all but two G7 countries.”
Demetriou cited a study from Business Roundtable that found for every additional $1 invested in infrastructure, there is a return of roughly $3.70 in additional economic growth over 20 years.
Among NAM’s key recommendations for infrastructure priorities are to relieve highway bottlenecks and repair crumbling highways and bridges, accelerating implementation of next-generation air-traffic management technology, upgrading airports and runways to world-class standards, deepen ports and upgrade aging locks, eliminating the maintenance backlog for public transit and rail, promoting new energy-infrastructure investments, and streamlining regulations to reduce the cost of delayed infrastructure.