Business Leaders: A Competitive U.S. Economy Needs Great Infrastructure

Originally posted on the U.S. Chamber website.

By SEAN HACKBARTH, Senior Editor, Digital Content

Few parts of our society depend more on public infrastructure than businesses.

Day in and day out, companies of all sizes send trucks out on the road, get goods off boats docked at ports, and ship products to customers all over the world from planes taking off at airports.

“Our global supply chains have to be serviced by reliable infrastructure to get goods from manufacturing to market,” said Alison Taylor, vice president for sustainability for Siemens during the recent Infrastructure Week at the U.S. Chamber.

Just like mayors and union leaders, business leaders understand why public infrastructure investment is important for serving customers, supporting jobs, and strengthening the United States in an ever more competitive global economy.

Everyone wants lower prices and faster delivery times, said Paul Misener, vice president for global innovation policy and communications at Amazon.com. But since the founding of the country, building and maintaining public infrastructure has been known to be one of proper roles for government, he said: “Amazon can’t build highways; it can’t repair bridges, so the investment needs are very real.”

As the U.S. economy changes, its infrastructure must adapt. Misener noted that right now ecommerce only makes up 7.5% of retail: “If the effect of ecommerce on the American economy is what it is today at 7.5%, imagine what it will be when it’s 20% or 30% or 50%.” We will need those improvements to meet such changes.

In addition U.S. global competitiveness depends on well-maintained infrastructure, said Snehal Desai of Dow Chemicals’ Dow Water and Process Solutions. “Infrastructure is the competitive advantage. People are moving, companies are moving based on what they anticipate what the future is from an infrastructure perspective.”

Taylor agreed: “As a business we need reliable infrastructure when we’re deciding where to locate manufacturing. We need reliable buildings; we need reliable energy supply and transportation.”

What advice did they have for Congress? Adequate and sustained government funding is needed. Private investment is important, but it’s not enough.

“The infrastructure that we all have come to rely on and take for granted is not going to be there always,” said Desai. “If we have ourselves on the footing of being the largest economic power, we have to put our money where our mouth is.”

“Without the public infrastructure, we’re going to be hurting—not only economically but as a nation,” Misener added. “Consumers need that physical infrastructure investment, and only governments are positioned to do that.”

The business community’s views are echoed in this video by FedEx Freight’s CEO Mike Ducker to the next president.

“There’s about $115 billion worth of repairs on the nation’s bridges alone,” he says. “What we need are long-term, sustainable initiatives that create funding that allows us to fix our nation’s infrastructure and makes us more competitive.”

“There’s about $115 billion worth of repairs on the nation’s bridges alone,” he says. “What we need are long-term, sustainable initiatives that create funding that allows us to fix our nation’s infrastructure and makes us more competitive.”

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