I am fortunate to serve as a member of California Rep. John Garamendi’s Manufacturing Advisory Committee (MAC), which meets quarterly to discuss issues that impact manufacturing in California and beyond.
At the most recent MAC meeting on Feb. 9, I had the opportunity to discuss a big problem that effects the entire country: The great need to invest in a long-term strategy to strengthen our nation’s infrastructure.
While the United States boasts the world’s largest stock of transportation infrastructure — bridges, roads, railways, seaports, airports, etc. — we currently rank 16th out of 144 nations when it comes to the quality of our infrastructure. One in five bridges is now considered structurally deficient; one in five roads are in need of major repair. And continued federal underinvestment in infrastructure has left jobs on the table (more than 900,000 to be precise, including 97,000 in manufacturing). Long-term infrastructure investment of $114 billion annually, meanwhile, would create 2.5 million new jobs.
My presentation evoked a thorough conversation about infrastructure, and many of those in attendance agreed that there is an insurmountable need to bring jobs back to United States specifically in Garamendi’s congressional district.
We also discussed how Buy America preferences can help ensure infrastructure projects are done right — and the problems that often come from contracting with foreign entities, such as the infamous San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge project, which was undertaken using imported steel from China. That project ran 12 years over schedule, $3.9 billion over budget, and now there’s a government safety investigation looking into the bridge’s faulty construction.
Growing Business in the Golden State
Congressman Garamendi is very much an advocate of Keeping it Made in America, and much of the MAC meeting highlighted that very topic. I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of 50 to 60 people, ranging from laborers from the United Steelworkers, the mayor of Fairfield, Calif., local manufacturing business owners, officials from the governor’s office and more.
Along with my presentation, Patrick McGuire of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) spoke about a hidden gem accessible to business owners in California seeking to grow their business in the Golden State.
California’s New Economic Development Initiative helps business owners expand and create new jobs in the Golden State. Since its inception in 2013, GO-Biz has awarded California companies $60 million, projected to create 10,000 jobs and generate nearly $3 billion in investment statewide.
GO-Biz recently announced it received a total of 253 applications with a combined tax credit request of $289 million for the most recent application period, and eventually awarded more than $151 million to applicants, 25 percent of which is reserved for small businesses. It is worth highlighting this service because if it is not utilized, it will be lost and it is a great service to those who want to create jobs in California.
I appreciate being a part of this exclusive committee, and I am beyond appreciative to Congressman Garamendi for being such a proponent of Keeping it Made in America. Special thanks to Brandon Thompson, Congressman Garamendi’s Deputy District Director, for facilitating a very successful event.
Jennifer Drudge is an Alliance for American Manufacturing field coordinator in California.