When the infrastructure bill passed the House of Representatives in November, it did so with only one House vote from Iowa: Rep. Cindy Axne (D).
However, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made it to President Joe Biden’s desk and became law Nov. 15. And while part of the focus afterwards has been placed on the potential building projects and the workers who will build them, the implementation of the sweeping bill will also benefit Iowans who work in the manufacturing industries.
Kip Eideberg, the senior vice president for government and industry relations for the Association of Equipment Managers (AEM), said it will do great things for their industry. AEM is an organization that represents construction and agriculture manufacturers including Iowa notables such as John Deere and Vermeer.
“Whenever there is an opportunity to make our country and our infrastructure more resilient, that’s going to be better for us as an industry,” Eideberg said. “There’s also going to be some opportunities, obviously, to be part of the process of strengthening our infrastructure.”
First, by improving the roads and bridges around manufacturing centers, shipping that equipment will be faster and easier. Eideberg said manufacturing equipment is easier when the infrastructure around those centers is in good condition.
Iowa has the nation’s highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges, and a recent report shows Iowa’s pavement conditions rank at 22nd in the country.
Iowa is set to receive about $3.4 billion for highways and $432 million for bridge repair over five years. Overall, the infrastructure bill funds new programs, but it also reauthorized existing funding such as the Highway Trust Fund.
With those type of investments, Eideberg said it brings more certainty to projects. Knowing the funding is there provides some confidence and security to get started. That also helps guarantee jobs.
“This means now that these projects will come online,” he said. “Contractors will start to hire, start to make purchasing decisions on equipment, which then means that our industry will step up to it and we’ll see more orders coming in for new equipment, which means more jobs.”
The AEM estimates 100,000 jobs will be created in the industry by 2024, and 500,000 in the manufacturing sector overall.
“Iowa is one of our biggest footprints with 132,000 jobs that we already support, and I think you’re going to see a lot more of those jobs coming to communities across Iowa starting next year,” Eideberg said. “But that’s really kicking into high gear, you know, nine months, 12 months, or at least 2022, early 2023.”
In other words, some jobs will be immediately available, and others, such as electrification and water projects, will come later when those programs are developed.
“There are tremendous opportunities here for us as an industry,” he said. “Opportunities for Iowans to pursue careers in an industry that pays 35% above the national average.”
The Social Security Administration reports the average wage index is $55,628.60.
And it’s not just roads and bridges, either. The infrastructure bill includes funding for other necessary infrastructure, such as dams and airports.
“Increasingly, a lot of parts and components are being moved on waterways,” Eideberg said. “So waterways, locks, dams, obviously seaports.”
More than anything though, he said AEM is excited about how this bill will make America more competitive on the global stage.
“The global competitiveness of this country is going to go up dramatically, and that will make us better equipped to meet competition from China, from Europe, from around the world,” Eideberg said.
Eideberg also finds it notable that the bill passed with support from Democrats and Republicans, though only 13 House Republicans voted for the bill and 19 Senate Republicans, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley.
Eideberg said it’s unfortunate politics got in the way, especially when he had conversations with Reps. Ashley Hinson, Marriannette Miller-Meeks, and Randy Feenstra and he knows they think infrastructure investments are important.
Next year, Eideberg and other AEM representatives will tour Iowa to highlight the benefits of the bill to both businesses and communities.
“We’ll encourage and certainly will invite Congresswoman Hinson, Congresswoman Miller-Meeks, and Congressman Feenstra to come out and join us,” he said.
In the meantime, AEM is also committed to pushing back on disinformation coming out about the bill. There’s a Republican effort to confuse it with the Build Back Better Act, which is still being debated in the Senate. It passed in the House.
“We’re going to spare no effort to not only tout the benefits of the bill but also just highlight the bipartisan leadership displayed by members of the House and the Senate, including that of Congresswoman Axne, for putting policy ahead of politics and actually voting to advance a good common sense piece of legislation,” Eideberg said.
He said the bill is too important to let politics confuse it for the American people.
Late last month, AEM started an ad campaign to highlight some of the politicians who helped make the infrastructure bill a reality. Axne is one of those.
“We are going to do our utmost to demonstrate the benefits and we will remind all lawmakers who voted against this bill, not just those in Iowa, that they could have been part of this,” Eideberg said. “This could have been their victory as well. And instead, they chose to put politics ahead of policy and vote against, I think, a piece of legislation that will be remembered as a historic win for this country.”
by Nikoel Hytrek