Of all of President Trump’s policy ideas, the one that garners the most bipartisan support—at least in principle—is his insistence on the need for a wide-ranging overhaul to our nation’s infrastructure. America’s infrastructure is old and outdated across the board, and there’s a broad consensus that something needs to be done about it. The President’s current plan calls for a $1 trillion dollar investment over the next decade to rebuild airports, water systems, electrical grids, and roads nationwide. Of course, as with any policy, the devil is in the details; any infrastructure package is likely to come with winners and losers.
Somewhat predictably, the winner’s column is dominated by workers and companies in construction-related industries. Rumblings of an infrastructure deal are already fomenting predictions of construction-materials rally, and global demand for commodities such as iron ore is expected to spike. Thus, major materials and steel manufacturing hubs such as those found in the Midwest and South stand to benefit greatly from increased infrastructure expenditures. Likewise, workers nationwide can expect increased access to well-paying jobs. This will be especially true if President Trump gets his way with an infrastructure plan that emphasizes his “Buy American, Hire American” values.
On the other hand, the losers of such policies would be a much more ubiquitous group: the American taxpayer. Simply put, buying American and hiring American is not a cheap proposition, and doing so would mean the $1 trillion dollars proposed would not stretch to as many projects as it would otherwise. That is not to say it’s all bad—even the Federal Reserve is cautiously optimistic—but there will be tradeoffs.
Further complicating the President’s plan are the potential requirement that funding only go to “shovel ready” projects, i.e. those that can be started within 90 days. This is proving a somewhat vexing proposition. While the administration can wave some Federal requirements, red-tape at the state and local level could still deadline many potential projects. Therefore, if communities want to reap the benefits of any Federal infrastructure package, they must not only begin streamlining permit and approval processes now, but they must also ensure they’re workforce ready.
So what exactly does it mean to be workforce ready? Great question. Check back in for next week’s post, it might just provide an answer.