Transportation and Infrastructure

Manufacturers need a modern infrastructure system to compete in a global economy. Strong and reliable infrastructure—from roads and rails to pipelines and broadband—helps manufacturers move materials and products efficiently, and gives our hardworking employees the tools to succeed.

Policy and Legal

Rural America Needs Better Broadband

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

With so many people working from home, access to high-speed internet has become more important than ever, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription). Still, some people—and particularly those living in rural areas—continue to struggle to connect.

Some higher speeds: On average, internet speeds have gotten faster. According to data from WhistleOut, which compares broadband and wireless internet plans, home internet speeds across the United States have increased from an average of 84.9 megabits per second in March to 94.6 megabits per second in July. The minimum broadband service speed, according to the FCC, is 25 megabits per second.

A few rough patches: Still, plenty of people are being left out. A study from Microsoft suggests that up to 150 million people across the country have slow or unreliable internet connections.

Why it matters: Broadband doesn’t just make it possible to work from home; it’s also important for COVID-19 response measures like contact tracing.

The NAM’s angle: In April, the National Association of Manufacturers released the “American Renewal Action Plan,” which calls for historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, including digital infrastructure, to spur economic renewal and competitiveness. The NAM’s “Building to Win” strategy also includes a focus on broadband buildout along with other forms of infrastructure critical for manufacturing.

The word from NAM: “Connectivity was already a key issue for manufacturers before this crisis as they embraced digital transformation,” said NAM Director of Innovation Policy Stephanie Hall. “The importance of universal broadband for our industry and communities is even clearer now as we turn to technology solutions for work, school and nearly every aspect of daily life.”

Policy and Legal

How Trade Route Shifts Are Affecting Ports

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

West Coast ports are being impacted by changing trade patterns, losing imports to the East Coast and Canada, among other competitors, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription). Some of that shift began in 2017, after infrastructure work made it possible for larger vessels to use the Port of New York and New Jersey. Meanwhile, West Coast ports aiming to move goods east must use networks of trains and trucks that run on crumbling U.S. infrastructure.

The breakdown: Ports on the West Coast took in less than 40% of seaborne imports during the first seven months of the year, with ports on the East Coast racking up a little bit more than half.

  • Asian imports are still leaning to the West Coast, but the makeup is beginning to change. Last year, Los Angeles moved 9.4 million containers compared to 7.5 million containers for New York and New Jersey. Still, the New York/New Jersey East Coast port did become the second-busiest port in the country, bumping Long Beach, California, out of the runner-up spot.
  • Canadian ports are also getting into the game, offering cheaper transportation services that undercut U.S. costs.

Related: West Coast freight networks—including railroads and trucks—are struggling to handle demand after limiting personnel and operations in the face of COVID-19, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

The NAM’s angle: The NAM has urged Congress for years to enact infrastructure reform, laying out its priorities in its “Building to Win” blueprint.

Most recently, during United for Infrastructure (formerly Infrastructure Week), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) spoke to NAM members at an event co-hosted by Nucor Steel about Congress’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of infrastructure investment. During the event the senator noted, “The most sustainable path forward on surface transportation authorization is a one-year extension of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.”

Policy and Legal

COVID-19 Is Delaying Infrastructure Projects

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

Along with the many other things not happening this year are a wide variety of infrastructure projects. A report released by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association lays out the extent of the delays and even cancellations, reports ConstructionDive. A few of the numbers:

  • About $9.6 billion in projects have been delayed or cancelled.
  • 16 states have nixed or postponed projects worth about $5 billion.
  • 20 local governments are responsible for the rest, at $4.54 billion.
  • 44 states, transportation authorities and local governments expect to see a drop in revenues . . . which could translate into less funding for infrastructure down the road (so to speak).

Why infrastructure matters: One industry that relies on infrastructure is, of course, transportation. And very soon, transportation will help save our economy and public health: once the COVID-19 vaccine is ready, it must be distributed nationwide.

Right now, delivery companies like UPS, FedEx and DHL are bolstering their networks and capacity to ship medical goods in anticipation of the vaccine, Transport Topics reports. Here are some of the details:

  • Preparations include building “freezer farms” capable of storing millions of doses of the vaccine at low temperatures. UPS has started work on two such facilities, while FedEx is adding at least 10 freezer facilities.
  • The companies will also need a lot of dry ice, which keeps medical supplies cold during transport.

This will be the largest vaccine distribution effort in history. Preserving and improving our infrastructure means that future generations, when faced with other health challenges, will be able to distribute medicines easily. And meanwhile, it will enable manufacturers to keep the economy thriving as only they can.

NAM involvement: Last month, the NAM and 118 manufacturing organizations sent a letter to Congress urging it to pass a long-term surface transportation bill, in part because of the challenges surrounding COVID-19.

The big picture: The NAM has been an advocate for infrastructure reform long before the pandemic and will continue long after. NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling recently made the comprehensive case for infrastructure investment in a blog for Trade Vista.

And for the full slate of NAM recommendations, check out its “Building to Win” plan for candidates and elected officials, which the NAM will keep promoting throughout the campaign season and during the next administration.

Press Releases

NAM Survey: Manufacturers Face Major Headwinds, but Continue Operating in Support of COVID-19 Response

Despite Drop in Optimism and Worsening Business Conditions, Majority of Industry Keeping Doors Open

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Manufacturers today released the results of the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey for the second quarter of 2020 showing that despite a historic drop in optimism, to nearly 34%, and challenging business conditions, the vast majority of manufacturers (98.7%) have continued or only temporarily halted operations. The survey also shows that manufacturers are innovating to find solutions to keep businesses running and to protect workers and communities, with almost 22% retooling to produce personal protective equipment, 67% reengineering processes to reflect COVID-19 safety protocols and 12% completely reevaluating the mission of the firm.

Manufacturers have led the country through the COVID-19 response, and America is counting on our industry to lead our recovery and renewal, said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. While these numbers show that we’ve faced difficult circumstances and that there is a challenging road ahead, manufacturers have proven that with our grit, determination and patriotic spirit, we can overcome any challenge facing the nation. And in our ‘American Renewal Action Plan,’ the NAM has shown the way forward.

As policymakers and regulators debate solutions to help the economy recover from this pandemic, the NAM urges them to focus on the renewal agenda laid out in the “American Renewal Action Plan.” We have been encouraged by actions taken thus far, but there is still greater need for targeted liability reform, tax provisions to ensure investment in manufacturing and measures to reaffirm the U.S. supply chain to protect those businesses that continue to work on the front lines of the COVID-19 response to ensure as swift a recovery as possible.

The Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey has surveyed the association’s membership of 14,000 large and small manufacturers on a quarterly basis since 1997 to gain insight into their economic outlook, hiring and investment decisions and business concerns. The NAM releases the results to the public each quarter. Further information on the survey is available here.

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 11.5 million men and women, contributes $2.38 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Policy and Legal

Presidential Candidates Discuss Manufacturing at Infrastructure Forum

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

In advance of the upcoming Nevada caucuses, presidential candidates convened at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas on Sunday to discuss their plans for the future of America’s infrastructure. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessman Tom Steyer took part in the event, titled “Moving America Forward: A Presidential Candidate Forum on Infrastructure, Jobs and Building a Better America.”

United for Infrastructure, a nonprofit that educates the American public about the importance of infrastructure to the nation’s economy, workers and communities hosted the event. As a member of the United for Infrastructure steering committee, the National Association of Manufacturers helps advance an infrastructure agenda that unites business and labor interests in a common call for urgent action to modernize U.S. infrastructure.

“From making products to transporting them to customers, modern manufacturers must be incredibly precise to maximize productivity, but without reliable infrastructure, it’s impossible to do that cutting-edge work,” said NAM Director of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Catie Kawchak. “Now is the time to deliver transformational advancements to the infrastructure that connects our communities and facilitates free enterprise.”

Manufacturers led the call for significant infrastructure investment. In 2019, the NAM updated “Building to Win,” a blueprint to revitalize our nation’s infrastructure. The comprehensive policy framework provides solutions to support workers in the United States, jumpstart economic growth, spur job creation and enhance quality of life by improving and expanding transportation, energy, water and digital infrastructure in order to pave the way for the success of new generations. It also lays out a path for Congress to fund these investments.

“I was encouraged to hear the candidates participating in the forum say that modernizing U.S. infrastructure must be a top priority,” said Kawchak. “While we won’t agree with every candidate on every specific, each candidate included provisions from ‘Building to Win’ in their infrastructure platforms. Building a 21st-century infrastructure system is a top priority for manufacturers and an issue that unites diverse stakeholders—from Republicans to Democrats and from business to labor. It will remain an important issue for candidates throughout the election cycle.”

Press Releases

NAM Statement on the 2020 State of the Union Address

Manufacturers: In 2020, Partisan Division Does Not Have to Be a Barrier to Progress

Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement reacting to the 2020 State of the Union address:

“With the historic USMCA, unprecedented China deal, game-changing tax reform and ever-growing regulatory certainty, manufacturers have been given powerful tools to keep investing in our people and our communities. We are ready to join the President in building on this progress and achieve the brighter, more optimistic future he envisioned tonight. It is up to manufacturers to continue keeping our promises—to invest in America, hire American workers and raise wages and benefits, while also providing environmental stewardship alongside economic growth.

“The manufacturing agenda is a post-partisan agenda, and one we have spelled out clearly for candidates and elected leaders in ‘Competing to Win.’ When we agree, as we often did with the President tonight, we will work together, regardless of party. For instance, President Trump is right to issue a bold call to action on infrastructure, and as the USMCA proved, partisan division does not have to be a barrier to progress. On the other hand, we must not curtail our pharmaceutical manufacturers’ ability to conduct vital research and development to cure diseases and fight future epidemics similar to the coronavirus. And on immigration, the solution must be comprehensive, as outlined in the NAM’s ‘A Way Forward.’

“All of us must come together to solve the most pressing challenge facing manufacturers: our workforce crisis. Through the NAM’s historic ‘Creators Wanted’ campaign, we are embarking on a sustained, nationwide effort to reach millions of Americans, to narrow the skills gap and inspire a new generation to pursue the high-tech, high-paying jobs of modern manufacturing.

“For manufacturers, it’s not about politics or personality or process—it’s about good policy, policy that puts us on a trajectory to exceed even our loftiest ambitions. That’s what we expect from our presidents and politicians, and we will hold them accountable, just as we promise to hold ourselves to account as well.”

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Policy and Legal

Timmons Touts 2020 Priorities During State of Manufacturing Address

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

Last week, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons delivered the 2020 State of Manufacturing Address at Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa, highlighting the NAM’s policy agenda and laying out manufacturers’ priorities. Coinciding with the 125th anniversary of the founding of the NAM, the livestreamed Address kicks off a yearlong focus on the association’s contributions to manufacturing and its work to strengthen the industry going forward.

“The story of the past 125 years is one of manufacturers…changing our country for the better, and being the solution,” said Timmons. “That’s our calling for the next 125 years.”

Timmons honed in on Creators Wanted, an unprecedented campaign led by the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s workforce and education partner, to attract a new generation and change the industry’s perception. This spring, the Creators Wanted Tour is expected to engage more than 250,000 Americans with high-tech manufacturing and reach more than 15 million people online.  The tour stops will build momentum for the Making America Festival in Cincinnati in September. Timmons also announced major Creators Wanted sponsorships from Vermeer and neighboring Iowa manufacturer Pella Corporation.

At the event, the NAM released its “Competing to Win” agenda, a detailed roadmap for candidates and elected officials. Representing 12.8 million men and women who make things in America—from small business owners to global companies in every industrial sector—Timmons called for the nation to support leaders who stand for free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.

After the Address, Timmons participated in a panel with Vermeer’s President and CEO Jason Andringa, moderated by NAM’s Senior Vice President of Communications and Brand Strategy Erin Streeter. They further emphasized the role business leaders should play in helping unify the nation, the success of manufacturers’ trade agenda and Andringa’s ability to make unprecedented investments in his business due to tax and regulatory reform.

“Manufacturers like us are proud to offer rewarding careers, to support our community and to strengthen our country,” said Andringa. “Like millions of men and women across the United States, we are committed to building a better future—and today, we’re more optimistic than ever about what that future holds.”

View a photo gallery from the event.

Want to help shape the future? Learn how to get involved in our Creators Wanted campaign, and read Competing to Win, our policy blueprint for candidates and elected officials.

Press Releases

Timmons Delivers 2020 NAM State of Manufacturing Address in Iowa

Speech Marked 125th Anniversary of NAM’s Founding and Highlighted ‘Creators Wanted’ Campaign to Address Growing Workforce Shortage

By

Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons delivered the eighth-annual NAM State of Manufacturing Address today at equipment manufacturer Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa. Speaking to Vermeer Corporation employees, business and community leaders and local manufacturers, Timmons highlighted the NAM’s ambitious plan to address the industry’s growing workforce crisis with the groundbreaking, multimillion-dollar “Creators Wanted” campaign.

In his remarks, Timmons said:

“For 125 years, your NAM has led the business community and fought for all who make things in America. And all of you in this room, and the 13 million men and women in our industry, some of whom are watching today, are part of the storied history of building an exceptional nation. And Vermeer, this very company, embodies the story of manufacturers’ progress.”

. . . .

“In this pivotal year, the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute, our workforce and education partner, are setting out on an unprecedented campaign to inspire a new generation—and tell the real story of our industry. . . . Our historic effort, called “Creators Wanted,” is a capital campaign that will support the programs of the Manufacturing Institute—including the STEP Women’s Initiative, youth engagement and Heroes MAKE America, which trains our returning servicemembers for high-paying manufacturing jobs.”

. . . .

“Just yesterday, in his remarks at the World Economic Forum, President Trump touted manufacturing’s growth and success during his presidency. As I’ve said before, from tax reform to regulatory certainty to leveling the playing field, promises made to manufacturers have been promises kept—and the employment and output numbers show it.”

. . . .

“Here’s what I will say about this election . . . It’s not the label next to a candidate’s name—whether an “R,” a “D” or an “I”—that determines whether he or she will be a good president or even a good member of Congress. The test is whether he or she will work to uphold the values that make America exceptional. These are the same four values, the same four pillars, that make our industry’s success possible.”

Timmons also noted the generous contributions made by Vermeer and Pella Corporation to the NAM’s Creators Wanted campaign.

“And I am proud to announce today that Vermeer Corporation, along with your foundation and Mary and Dr. Dale Andringa, have contributed $100,000 to this cause. And another local manufacturer, Pella Corporation, is also leading by example with a $100,000 contribution of their own,” said Timmons.

Vermeer Corporation President and CEO Jason Andringa thanked Timmons for his visit and the NAM’s commitment to ensuring the long-term success of manufacturing in the United States.

“Thank you to Jay Timmons and the National Association of Manufacturers for visiting Vermeer Corporation and recognizing the incredible work of our team members and manufacturers across the country,” said Andringa. “These men and women truly demonstrate the impact our industry makes every day and represent the success of American manufacturing.”

To read the full address, click here.

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Policy and Legal

Manufacturers Stack Support for Infrastructure Investment

Today, the Infrastructure Working Group—a coalition of national organizations led by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Associated General Contractors—sent a letter to the Senate urging passage of a long-term, robustly-funded surface transportation reauthorization bill ahead of the Sept. 30, 2020 deadline. NAM Director of Infrastructure Catie Kawchak breaks down manufacturers’ immediate need for infrastructure modernization.

What’s the scope of the infrastructure challenge?

NAM data reveals that underinvestment in U.S. infrastructure worsens by the year, and infrastructure investment is only one-third of what it was in 1960. As a result, more than 54,000 bridges across the United States are rated “structurally deficient,” and a majority of our roadway are in less than good condition. Ports and waterways are in disrepair, airports and runways are clogged and congested. But it’s not just transportation infrastructure that needs an upgrade to accommodate a 21st-century manufacturing economy. We need improvements to our water, energy and digital infrastructure as well. It’s unacceptable that America’s infrastructure continues to receive a D+ grade. Now is the time to deliver transformational advancements to the infrastructure that connects our communities and facilitates free enterprise.

How does this challenge affect manufacturers?

Right now, America’s transportation infrastructure doesn’t support our vision for an exceptional America. Manufacturers use roads, bridges, rails, waterways, ports and airports every day—and if shipments are delayed by highway congestion or an unsafe bridge, then the entire production process can be delayed. Modern, just-in-time manufacturing must be incredibly precise to maximize productivity, but without reliable infrastructure, it’s impossible to do that cutting-edge work.

What is the NAM’s solution?

The NAM’s “Building to Win” blueprint offers a comprehensive plan to modernize the infrastructure that makes the American Dream possible. It provides solutions to support workers in the United States, jump-start economic growth, spur job creation, and enhance quality of life by improving and expanding our transportation, energy, water and digital infrastructure so that we can pave the way for the success of new generations. It even lays out a path for Congress to fund these investments.

What’s next?

In just one year, Congress faces a deadline to pass a surface transportation bill. Without this legislation, highway, bridge and transit projects will slow construction timelines and become even more costly. That’s why about 150 members of the Infrastructure Working Group applauded the Senate’s initial work on reauthorization and implored them to finish the legislative process on time. September 2020 may sound like a long time, but passing a surface transportation bill has historically taken longer than a year.  

What is the Infrastructure Working Group?

Led by the NAM and AGC, the group demonstrates the breadth of the industries impacted by America’s deteriorating infrastructure. It includes manufacturers, labor, construction, technology, finance, agriculture, retailers, emergency responders and local and state government, among others. There’s broad agreement about the need for effective, efficient infrastructure. We’re standing together to push for action, and now Congress needs to pass infrastructure legislation on time.

Policy and Legal

As Manufacturing Booms, Freight Rail Invests

Modern freight rail systems are planning for even more demand from manufacturers to move freight on the nation’s rail network.

train winding through mountains

Many Americans are traveling this Independence Day, and many manufacturers transport goods throughout the year via rail. According to the National Association of Manufacturers’ “Building to Win” infrastructure plan, private investments averaging $27 billion annually over the past five years would allow the sector to maintain and upgrade its track and equipment.

Rail traffic density has increased by about 200 percent over the past four decades while the size of the rail network has remained relatively the same. For freight rail investment and growth to continue, a balance between competing rail interests must be implemented to keep the freight moving on time. Like people, freight can be on a time constraint because the customer is always waiting.

Congress passed the Congressional Rail Passenger Service Act to revitalize U.S. passenger rail and create Amtrak in 1971. Two years later, Congress granted “preference” to passenger rail systems, meaning tenant passenger trains are dispatched first and given special privileges on the privately-owned track. In turn, Amtrak is required to pay “incremental costs” and on time “incentive payments.”

Amtrak is also entitled to financial penalty provisions for delays. A majority of passenger routes utilize private freight track that most frequently consists of a single track with sidings. Passenger trains have eminent domain on freight track, but they operate differently than freight trains. They travel at higher speeds and require more headway clearance. These differences complicate the national network, exacerbating congestion to the detriment of just-in-time manufacturers moving growing levels of freight.

“The economic conditions 50 years ago, a time known for unemployment, high inflation, high interest rates and high oil prices, provide a stark contract to today’s economic growth, framed by lower taxes, low unemployment, low interest rates and competitive energy costs,” said NAM Director of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Catie Kawchak. “Freight railroads have invested heavily in their networks and infrastructure as a result of increasing demand from manufacturers, retailers and other shippers. However, today’s network is constrained by passenger rail’s priority access.”

Modern freight rail systems are planning for even more demand from manufacturers and retailers to move freight on the nation’s rail network. The Federal Highway Administration predicts that total U.S. overall freight shipments will increase 37 percent between now and 2040.  However, there’s one area where freight is constrained, and the future is stuck in a dated rail statute that provides priority access to freight rail’s longtime tenant, Amtrak.

“The strength of a freight network – trucking, rail and air cargo – supports our competitiveness and provides a needed capability for manufacturers to expand their reach,” said NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Robyn Boerstling. “It’s a little-known fact that Amtrak trains have priority access to infrastructure owned and operated by private freight railroads. Striking the right balance between passenger and freight operations is critical.”

View More