Now it’s time for the real work to begin.
Hailing it as the moment historians will remember as “when America began to win the competition for the 21st century,” President Biden on Monday afternoon signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law.
The historic (and bipartisan!) $1.2 trillion package includes funding to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, public transportation, railways, broadband Internet access, electric grid, airports and more. It also includes money for water infrastructure and electric vehicle charging stations, which will be critical as the United States transitions to electric vehicles.
And notably, the new law also includes robust Buy America preferences, maximizing the job potential of the soon-to-come investments and ensuring that America’s future infrastructure will be Made in America, too.
“This law is a blue collar blueprint to rebuild America,” Biden said, later adding: “When you see those projects starting in your hometown, I want you to see what I see and feel what I feel: pride.”
Biden’s signing of the bill came hours before he was scheduled to hold a virtual meeting with China’s leader Xi Jinping. Biden has often cited competition with China as a reason for making these historic investments, noting that it is part of a larger battle between democracy and autocracy in the 21st century.
The president once again mentioned Xi at the bill signing on Monday. He recalled a trip to China as vice president, when Xi asked him if he could define America in a single word. Biden quickly came up with the answer, he recalled: “Possibilities.”
“There is no limit to what our people think we can do, and there’s no limit to what our nation can do… and it’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people,” Biden said. “It’s our job to give our people that chance, and it’s our job to make sure we remain a nation of possibilities.”
We’ve long covered the need for infrastructure investment, but suffice to say it is currently in rough shape. These new investments could prove to be a game-changer, including for manufacturing.
As Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul outlined on Twitter on Monday, factories rely on things like roads, bridges, ports, airports, water systems and railways, so making all those things function as efficiently as possible will mean factories will be more efficient — and more competitive, too. Factories also employ people, and having better roads and public transit for them to use to get to work will not only cut down on commuting time, it also will help keep up employee morale.
But this historic measure also provides an opportunity to create millions of new factory jobs at a critical time, especially because the Buy America preferences included in the law will ensure that all of the taxpayer money being spent will be reinvested right back into American workers, businesses and communities.
Biden wasn’t the only person touting the benefits of the new law the signing. Several Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle spoke at the event, along with workers who will see the benefits of the investments.
One of them was Donnetta Williams, president of United Steelworkers Local 1025 in North Carolina. Williams noted that the optical fiber made at the Corning factory in Wilmington, N.C. where she works will help expand broadband access to rural and underserved communities throughout the country.
“Investment in infrastructure are critical to workers like me, my brothers and sisters in other industries, and I was so proud to join them to help [support] this bill you will sign today, President Biden,” she said.
The jobs created by the investment will be good jobs, Williams added, pointing to her own union job at Corning.
“I’ve been there 26 years,” Williams recalled. “It helped me raise my daughter, who is now 30, as a single mom. I was able to have health care provided, able to send her to school to get an education, and it has allowed me to contribute to my community.”
Now that the long-awaited investment package is finally law, it is time to get to work. Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of the law, with the White House noting that he will work with independent experts to ensure the projects-to-come “create millions of high-paying, union jobs while boosting our economic competitiveness in the world [and] strengthening our supply chains.”
There’s no time to waste, and America’s factory workers and manufacturers stand ready and willing to get the job done. Let’s get to work.