No. 5 Manufacturing Story of 2022: America Finally Begins Rebuilding its Infrastructure

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Dec 26 2022 |
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (center) speaks to the media during groundbreaking ceremonies for the Portal North Bridge in New Jersey, which took place in August. Photo by Department of Transportation

After decades of talk, the United States got to work on fixing its decaying roads, bridges, ports, railways, and more. But there’s an issue.

Editor’s note: The Alliance for American Manufacturing team is counting down the top manufacturing news stories of 2022 all this week.

For years and years and years, there was a running joke in Washington about Infrastructure Week, the annual advocacy push in which business, labor, and everybody else hit Capitol Hill to urge Congress to finally pass legislation to rebuild America’s crumbing infrastructure.

Then something miraculous happened. Congress actually did it.

President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in November 2021, and the government got to work investing some of that money in 2022.

As of Nov. 15, the government has spent more than $185 billion on more than 6,900 specific infrastructure projects in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and territories like Puerto Rico, according to the White House. That includes the launch of 2,800 bridge repair and replacement projects, $20.4 billion in spending to improve public transportation, $4 billion for airport improvements, and $9 billion to fix aging water systems, including sewage systems, pipes, and service lines.

After years of delay and the continued decline of our infrastructure, the work being done in 2022 truly was a big step forward. And it is one that is creating jobs, including in the manufacturing sector.

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up a big concern.

Included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was language called Build America, Buy America, which mandated that “all of the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in infrastructure projects are produced in the United States.” The Biden administration touted this part of the new law, and set up the new Made in America Office in an effort to ensure taxpayer money is reinvested back into American workers and businesses whenever possible.

Unfortunately, some government agencies have opted to not abide by Build America, Buy America. In October, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rather bizarrely decided that Buy America doesn’t apply to the purchase of 2,400 new school buses, for example. Meanwhile, other government agencies have issued Buy America waivers, which are now tracked online by the Made in America Office.

It’s disappointing, to say the least, to see some federal agencies not abiding by the Build America, Buy America direction issued by Congress. Not only does Buy America help create jobs and support local businesses, but it also is an investment into rebuilding America’s industrial base. That’s a key goal of the Biden administration (as future entries in this countdown make clear) and these agencies are doing a disservice if they do not take advantage of opportunities to strengthen American industry whenever they can.

The good news is that rebuilding infrastructure isn’t just a one-year project. The $1.2 trillion will spent over the course of many years and many projects, leaving plenty of time to do it right. Let’s get to work, and make sure America’s rebuilt infrastructure is Made in America, too.