Implementation of programs and funding from 2021’s historic, bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is now in full swing—and manufacturers are already hard at work.
What’s going on: During discussions at an Infrastructure Week event hosted by United For Infrastructure earlier this month, leaders from Bechtel and Siemens USA discussed the significant social and economic impact of infrastructure investment.
- The Business Roundtable “commissioned a study to look at the economic impact [of] every taxpayer dollar invested in infrastructure, and we concluded that [each dollar] generates $4 in economic growth,” said Bechtel Chairman and CEO Brendan Bechtel, who is also chair of the BRT Infrastructure Committee. “We concluded that a trillion dollars in infrastructure investment over 10 years unlocks, on average, additional household disposable income of $1,800 a year for every family in the United States. Modern infrastructure creates a huge amount of social, environmental and economic benefits.” Bechtel spoke alongside Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu on a panel.
- More benefits of the investment in infrastructure are on display in the many projects of industrial technology company Siemens USA, according to the company’s Vice President and Head of U.S. Government Affairs Brie Sachse.
- Sachse discussed the recent opening of Siemens’ second U.S. electric-vehicle charging manufacturing hub in Carrollton, Texas, as well as a partnership with utility ComEd in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. There, Siemens is providing the management software for a first-of-its-kind, utility-owned microgrid cluster. “It will lead to cleaner, more reliable power for a neighborhood in the midst of revitalization,” Sachse said during a lightning round at the event. “We’re enthusiastic about the momentum to electrify America.”
Permitting reform and workforce: Both Bechtel and Sachse stressed the critical importance of filling current and future open manufacturing jobs. Bechtel echoed NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons—who spoke on an earlier panel—when he stressed the need for infrastructure-project permitting reform at the congressional level.
- “The shortage of construction workers is real. It’s the current constraint throttling how much work we feel we can responsibly commit to and deliver at once,” Bechtel said. “I think it’s the single most important thing that we can all address besides permitting reform.”
- After the event, Bechtel thanked industry allies and business leaders “for continuing to lead on improving the permitting system so we can move projects through the pipeline more efficiently.”
The power of apprenticeships: The companies are betting on apprentice programs to help fill jobs.
- Siemens recently launched an apprentice program in Wendell, North Carolina, to “support the growing EV market,” Sachse said, adding that apprenticeships like this one are “opening the door for career pathways that are both well-paying and meaningful.”
- To fill the worker shortage, “we’re doubling down on the things we know that work,” Bechtel said. For example, the company uses apprentice readiness programs, in which people are “learning while they’re earning [and] they’re accessing and accumulating health and retirement benefits that they wouldn’t otherwise.”