“There is an enormous need here and, with that, comes an enormous opportunity,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a Monday kickoff event.
Leaders from industry, government, and nonprofit groups are banding together this week for a series of educational and advocacy events to encourage U.S. leaders to “lead with infrastructure.”
United for Infrastructure’s signature week of action kicked off on Monday with a webinar that featured a series of traditional panel-style conversations, pre-recorded videos, and keynote remarks, along with from notable appearances from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as well as President Joe Biden.
The diversity of voices represented in this kick-off event truly showed how diverse the support for increased government spending on infrastructure is (it’s probably the only time you’ll see AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark happily sharing a stage, for example).
Panel conversations highlighted just how many areas bridging the partisan divide are in desperate need of support. Panelists spoke on a range of issues, including public transit, water systems, broadband internet access, job availability, and construction.
“You’re showing that infrastructure isn’t a Democrat versus Republican, or business versus labor, energy versus the environment — it’s about all of us,” Biden said in recorded remarks. “All of us working together to build the foundation for our communities, our country, and our future.”
Though each differed on how best to approach their chosen area of expertise, panelists’ attitudes toward increased government spending on infrastructure were generally aligned under a mentality best summarized by a comment from U.S. Steel President and CEO Dave Burritt: “Let’s get on with this.”
Unlike previous years, infrastructure investment has a real shot of happening this year. Whereas, in the past, United for Infrastructure’s week-long series aimed to draw attention toward infrastructure, this year, excitement has already built up around the issue, largely thanks to the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan.
“We view this moment we are living in as a once in a lifetime opportunity because of the public interest and bipartisan appetite to get something done,” Buttigieg said.
This bipartisan appetite was also emphasized in several series of pre-recorded videos which spotlighted various local leaders from across the country. Leaders included Republican and Democratic mayors from both Texas and Oklahoma, as well as commissioners from Georgia and West Virginia, among other officials.
Each official testified to the impact infrastructure spending could have on their communities.
Mayor Jim Thornton explained how federal infrastructure spending could help his town in LaGrange, Ga., including by completing “The Thread,” a multi-use trail system connecting their community’s parks, neighborhoods, and downtown area.
Mayor Sylvester Turner explained that Houston’s aging infrastructure is in desperate need of repair, especially if the city wants to maintain the attractive qualities that have brought more people to the area in recent years.
The answer to the needs posed by these local leaders, as well as the panelists, is a partnership between the federal government and various state and local agencies along with nonprofit organizations. As Burritt said, “Such better days are ahead when we work together for something that makes us all better.”
Lead with Infrastructure will continue all week with digital events hosted by organizations throughout the country. You can also take part in the conversation online by using the hashtag #LeadwithInfrastructure.
Meanwhile, Biden is set to meet with Republican lawmakers at the White House later this week for talks that could determine whether a potential infrastructure investment package will be a bipartisan endeavor.
“The 2020’s, just as a decade, may be remembered as one of the most transformative and dynamic in a very long time,” Buttigieg said.