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Our Failing Infrastructure Is Costing Our Families

Aug. 31, 2017
Much of our old infrastructure is crumbling, slowing down the economy, stalling job creation and making it harder for the United States to compete globally. And the new infrastructure we need isn’t being built nearly fast enough.

What needs to be done to keep America’s economy moving? How can we create new jobs and businesses so that American families can prosper? The answer is all around us.

American businesses, especially the resurgent manufacturing sector, need a modern and reliable transportation infrastructure—roads, bridges, highways, railways, waterways, pipes, airportsand public transit—to move the people, resources and products that make our economy grow. Add to that infrastructure for water resources, energy distribution and broadband networks, and the breadth and depth of our infrastructure are breathtaking.

Now the hard truth: Much of our old infrastructure is crumbling, slowing down the economy, stalling job creation and making it harder for the United States to compete globally. And the new infrastructure we need isn’t being built nearly fast enough.

The research is clear. From 2015 to 2026, deficient infrastructure will cost America $3,400 per family per year. By 2026, that cost will rise to a staggering $5,100.

The cause is simple. Over the past few decades, the United States has spent less and less on our infrastructure. In 1970, we spent about 3.8 percent of GDP on infrastructure. By 2012, our investment dwindled to 1.5 percent of GDP. 

Our global competitors are becoming stronger because of our national deferral on our infrastructure needs. They are making the infrastructure investments needed to move ahead. For example, each year, China spends more on infrastructure than North America and Europe combined. 

Crumbling infrastructure means it takes the nation’s manufacturers, our job creators, longer—and costs more money—to get our products to consumers. And those costs keep us from expanding our facilities, investing in our communities and hiring more workers at better wages. 

The plastics industry, which I represent, is a key player here. The sector is surging; worth nearly $400 billion, it employs almost 1 million workers. We are an industry on the rise, with new technologies improving the quality, versatility and affordability of our products. But without a modern infrastructure, our ability to create jobs, grow the economy and compete globally is limited. 

So, what is the solution? How do we repair our roads, rebuildour bridges, maintain our ports and expand our energy infrastructure? The president has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure investment, and manufacturers agree that superior infrastructure requires serious investment. That’s why we are urging our elected officials to unite around a national imperative to invest in our transportation, energy, water and broadband infrastructure. And that’s how we can all become part of the solution. 

As chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers’(NAM) Council of Manufacturing Associations, I would like to call attention to the NAM’s infrastructure plan, “Building to Win,” which outlines manufacturers’ infrastructure priorities and how to accomplish and fund them.

The NAM’s roadmap is comprehensive. Its goals range from improving public transit to upgrading ports and modernizing aviation. The funding can come from a variety of sources, including public resources and public–private partnerships supported by good governance and regulatory efficiency. 

But manufacturers don’t just need good infrastructure; we build it, too, including the components that go into everything from stoplights to train tracks, from pipelines to electric equipment. That means investing in infrastructure is investing in jobs, adding to the ranks of the 12.3 million manufacturing workers who call America home.

But so far, government inaction is denying Americans these jobs. Each year, decisions on how to resolve chronic underfunding and modernize outdated revenue sources are kicked down the road. And each year, families lose more and more money to crumbling bridges and cracked highways. 

Failing infrastructure is limiting our economic growth. The president and Congress have made infrastructure a priority.Manufacturers are committed to working with both sides of the aisle to secure the necessary investments to ensure America has the best infrastructure in the world for manufacturing. The needs are all around us; the solution is in front of us. This is something both political parties can and should support.

Bill Carteaux is president and CEO of The Plastics Industry Association. He also serves as Chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers' (NAM) Council of Manufacturing Associations. 

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