Speaking at a press conference following an invitation-only meeting of key U.S. senators, Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), forcibly relayed the direct connection between infrastructure investment and job creation for the construction industry and entire manufacturing sector.
The meeting and conference were held to highlight the importance of infrastructure investment to putting Americans back to work.
Slater was selected to attend as the sole representative of the manufacturing sector, in recognition of AEM’s leadership role in support of critical infrastructure investment and the Start Us Up USA campaign, which advocates timely passage of multi-year transportation legislation. AEM also is active in advocating for adequate water infrastructure investment.
“The single best way to bring back hundreds of thousands of good-paying, sustainable manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is to pass major long-term investments in our critical national infrastructure,” Slater noted.
Senators at the meeting are working on a new “jobs creation” package of legislation, and they recognize that a central piece of that effort will be rebuilding America’s infrastructure to create jobs, grow the economy and maintain and improve our nation’s safety, environment and international competitiveness, Slater noted.
The meeting in the U.S. Senate was co-chaired by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV); Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee; and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.
In addition, 19 Senators attended, including — in addition to Reid, Stabenow and Murray — Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the federal surface transportation and water infrastructure programs.
Also attending were leaders of business and labor organizations, local and state government officials, and representatives of the rural, education and minority business communities.
At the press conference, Slater spoke alongside Senators Boxer and Bob Casey (D-PA) and two representatives of national labor organizations.
Slater stated, “What we heard today was not only a commitment to a near-term jobs creation package, but a commitment from Senator Boxer to write a multi-year highway bill this year, and to start that process in March. We fully support this commitment and look forward to working with Senator Boxer and her colleagues as they write this critical legislation.”
He added, “We know many thorny policy issues have to be resolved before the House and Senate can come to agreement on a new multi-year highway bill, and that in the meantime — right now — Congress needs to pass some measures that can help to create jobs for Americans in the nearer term. We respect and support this. But as soon as that work is done, we hope that our lawmakers will turn to our nation’s long-term infrastructure investment needs. We must have a multi-year funding commitment to provide market certainty, so planners can plan, and business can invest. This is how the private sector creates jobs.”
A Hard Number Look at the Need for Infrastructure Investment
Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers recently spoke before a meeting of senators about the state of the construction industry. He had the following to report:
• 1.25 million. That’s how many jobs the construction equipment industry supported in 2008.
• 550,000. That’s how many jobs the construction equipment industry has lost in this recession.
• 50 percent. That’s how much employment in the construction equipment manufacturing sector alone has declined since 2006.
• 22,000 deaths annually are related to deficient roadway conditions.
• Commuters in major urban areas waste 4.2 billion hours every year stuck in traffic — costing another $87 billion to the economy in lost productivity and wasted fuel.
• At least 33 percent of our nation’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 26 percent of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
• $225 billion. According to the Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, the U.S. needs to spend $225 billion annually for the next 50 years to upgrade our surface transportation system. We are spending less than 40 percent of this amount today.
• $350. That’s how much wealth is returned to the economy for every $100 invested in infrastructure, according to a University of Maryland study.
• 35,000. According to the Department of Labor, 35,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure.