Highway construction is expected to be a big part of any federal infrastructure bill. Shown is Interstate Highway 235 in Des Moines. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
The CEO of a large Iowa manufacturing company told a national audience Thursday that a proposed federal infrastructure bill would be “transformative” in the same way rural electrification was.
“I see this opportunity as being just as transformative as the period of rural electrification and bringing water and sewer to all residences in the United States,” said Jason Andringa, president and CEO of Pella-based equipment giant Vermeer.
Andringa spoke at an online news conference as the head of an infrastructure task force assembled by the Milwaukee-based Association of Equipment Manufacturers, of which he is a board member. The event also featured fellow board and task-force member Austin Ramirez, CEO of Husco International based in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Democrats and Republicans are trying to negotiate a deal that could top $1 trillion after President Joe Biden’s original $2 trillion proposal stalled. On Thursday, Politico reported Senate Democrats are eyeing an expanded $6 trillion plan through a procedural maneuver if they can’t get bipartisan support for a smaller bill.
Ramirez said an infrastructure bill would not only help improve water, sewer, power and broadband, it would support thousands of jobs not only in construction but also in manufacturing of the equipment needed to make the improvements.
Husco makes hydraulic and electro-mechanical components. Vermeer manufactures agricultural equipment and heavy equipment, including trenchers used in utility and pipeline installation.
Both speakers acknowledged that their push for an infrastructure bill would benefit their own companies. But they added the work would benefit virtually any business, and the employees trying to get to and from work or to connect online.
Andringa said he is glad both political parties are discussing how to save a proposal that started under Republican President Donald Trump, but faltered, and has continued under President Joe Biden, who has been greeted with sticker shock.
“I think the most appropriate bill is going to be a bipartisan one,” Andringa said.
He added that broadband improvements need to be in the mix. “The future of being connected in all rural areas is incredibly important for agriculture,” Andringa said.
The bill would have economic benefits. “Many manufacturing jobs are good-paying jobs, construction is good-paying jobs,” Andringa said.
Ramirez said the potential of a widespread economic boost makes the infrastructure bill a good idea.
“An investment in infrastructure is a direct impact on the American manufacturing sector, it creates jobs and equips our economy to grow in the long run,” Ramirez said.
The bipartisan negotiations among members of Congress seem to be crafting a more realistic plan, Ramirez added.
“I am thrilled with the proposal that came out (the negotiating group) because I think it strikes the appropriate balance between what I thought was an overly ambitious Biden plan that essentially classified everything under the sun as infrastructure, and the early Republican proposals that I think were not ambitious enough in terms of how we define infrastructure and how we think about investing in infrastructure,” Ramirez said.
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