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Economy

American Steel Wins With Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement

Image courtesy of Ant Rozetsky

Following rumblings of a newly reached bipartisan agreement on a modified version of the American Jobs Plan, there is a lot of excitement over how major national industries like steel could benefit from a sudden funding injection to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. The recently revealed compromise between a number of Senate Democrats and Republicans appears to be a leaner package that will make generational improvements to the nation’s infrastructure, which should breathe as much as $1.2 trillion into American industries like steel and concrete over the next eight years. 

The majority of the funding is for a wide variety of infrastructure upgrades in areas like public transportation, roads and bridges, electric vehicles, water infrastructure, national power grid, and broadband. This massive influx is unlike any seen in this country since the Reagan era, and the anticipated increase in demand for steel has union figures like Tom Conway excited for the coming years. Conway, who is president of United Steelworkers International, said that the federal investment comes “long overdue,” and he feels appreciative that the current administration looks to be taking “an expansive view of infrastructure”. 

The organization, which works to represent the steelworkers of northern Indiana, touted an increased demand for jobs to keep up with production. Conway agreed that the plan was ambitious, and would bring welcome improvements to roads and waterways as well as the nation’s schools, communication systems, and overall public health.

Photo Courtesy the blowup

Other organizations within the industry are optimistic about the plan, especially on the potential for a massive chain effect of jobs created. “Each one billion dollars in infrastructure spending requires about 50,000 net tons of steel,” said Kevin Dempsey, who works as president of the American Iron and Steel Institute, which represents steel producers across the country. Should a trillion dollars be invested in what Dempsey calls the cleanest steel producing industry in the world, as many as eleven million new jobs would be created within the next ten years. 

This sustainability claim comes after a May case study by CRU International with findings indicating that the American steel industry is anywhere from 75 to 320 percent cleaner than all international competitors in terms of carbon emissions. A dedicated, thorough federal investment as seen in this plan should only look to widen that gap even further, as upgrades will go towards improving long-term efficiency as well as short-term steel output.

Photo Courtesy Jackie Martinez

In addition to the workers in steel production and processing, the modified American Jobs Plan has garnered praise from several regional municipalities for a variety of reasons. One issue of particular importance to the mayors of hundreds of American and Canadian cities bordering the Great Lakes is water infrastructure. Groups like the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which represents more than 100 towns within the region, have a lot to be thankful for as it looks like their long-awaited wishes will be granted. As much as $55 billion will be dedicated to national water infrastructure over the next eight years, with water quality improvements coming as a sure win for the coalition. “In addition to water restoration, the funding will also impact local economies,” says Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who serves as a board member for Great Lakes. The mayor says that the proposed upgrades to resilience, mitigation, and ecosystem restoration “are estimated to return more than $6 for every $1 spent,” and project an additional 39 jobs created for every million dollars in federal grant money directed towards these initiatives. 

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