Senators on Capitol Hill spent much of this week negotiating a historic investment package that could direct billions of dollars toward modernizing America’s infrastructure. The legislation as it currently stands would create $550 billion in new spending over the next five years to transform our nation’s transportation, broadband, water, and energy networks.
Click here to view the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s in-depth summary of this once-in-a-generation bill.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal at America’s Fingertips
With congressional leaders potentially on the cusp of capturing this long-sought national priority – the Senate hopes to reach a bipartisan agreement to finalize the bill this weekend before sending it over to the House – I was honored this morning to join job creators from within and beyond North Carolina to reinforce the importance of safe, secure, reliable infrastructure for America and for our state.
Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer with the U.S. Chamber, hosted a virtual press event which included myself, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Natalie English, and Charlotte Regional Business Alliance President and CEO Janet LaBar. (If you want a great read on infrastructure, by the way, check out this recent WilmingtonBiz article penned by Natalie.) Together, we commended the bipartisan efforts that have carried us to this moment, including the leadership of North Carolina’s voices in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis. We also called for these leaders to keep the bill moving forward and for leaders in the House to show the same commitment to bipartisan action on infrastructure.
Investment Package Ripe With Possibilities for NC
For North Carolina, these investments promise to jump start job growth, invigorate community development, expand opportunity, and improve quality of life for millions of people across our state. They include an expected $7.2 billion to revamp and expand the 3,100 miles of federal highways within our state and more than $450 million for much-needed repairs to a growing list of deteriorated bridges. These investments, in addition to fueling our success, will lead to safer roads and lower costs for North Carolina drivers. Additional funds will diversify public transit options and enhance airport, port, rail, and multimodal infrastructure across our state. At least $100 million would go toward expanding access to broadband connections for the more than 400,000 North Carolinians who currently lack one. And roughly $65 million would get invested directly into our energy grid.
On this morning’s call, Natalie wisely emphasized how many of these investments will better enable our state to proactively support stronger, more resilient infrastructure networks. From her home base on the coast – where hurricanes and other natural threats present heightened developmental and operational challenges – she understands this need all too well. Meanwhile, Janet, who focuses on the state’s largest metro area, explained how the bill would bolster connections between communities that function as pieces of a larger whole. This improved connectivity will help ensure each region of our state can capitalize on their own unique growth prospects while enabling the state as a whole to more easily leverage synergy across regions, facilitating the growth of opportunity in underserved and rural areas of North Carolina.
North Carolina’s remarkable evolution into a premier destination state and, more recently, our economic relaunch, have been powered by a strong, diverse community of job creators. The efforts and contributions of our business community – like the life-saving vaccines leading the fight against COVID-19 and countless other innovations with a homegrown connection to our state – are driving growth here at home and making impacts far beyond our small corner of the Southeast. As a state, we’ve done almost everything right to supercharge our success, optimize our advantages, and solidify our position as a major player in a 21st century global economy. Almost everything, that is, except committing to 21st century infrastructure development strategies.
This historic infrastructure package would bring us one step closer to securing that commitment. I thank the U.S. Chamber team and my partners in North Carolina for helping me send that message loud and clear this morning. And I thank each of you who have helped elevate that message to an even broader audience.
Can Federal Action Spur State-Level Commitments?
Infrastructure action at the federal level is not enough for North Carolina, however. We must show that same willingness to take bold action here in our state. This year, the NC Chamber and our partners on the Destination 2030 Coalition are calling for our leaders to do just that when it comes to our state-supported transportation infrastructure. With senators and representatives in the N.C. General Assembly working to finalize a two-year budget for our state and bring the current legislative session to a close, we are strongly urging them to activate bold, 21st century solutions to support our statewide transportation network.
Next week, we’ll be featuring a guest voice from the business community here in Executive Memo to drive the point home that we must make these state-level commitments now, not later. In the meantime, let’s all encourage North Carolina’s congressional representatives and others on Capitol Hill to seize this moment and empower our nation to continue growing high-quality jobs and creating new opportunities for hard-working American families.
Gary J. Salamido
President and CEO