"I Make America" Works for You

June 14, 2011
Prosperity is in everyone's interest, and the I Make America campaign gives you the opportunity to be part of an effort that promotes manufacturing in the United States.

There's an old joke that says everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. Nowadays, everyone talks about how our roads and bridges need improving, but no one is able to get Congress to do anything about them.

If you're one of the frustrated people who feels we need a little less talk and a lot more action on our surface infrastructure, please sign up for the I Make America campaign. It will cost you nothing and the benefits to you — for your job, industry, community and country — could be immense. Let me explain.

Championship athletes depend on a steady supply of oxygen pumping through their veins, and in the same way the lifeblood of the U.S. economy is primarily carried through surface transportation arteries. Just as blood sends energy to straining muscles, the roads, bridges and rail lines of the U.S. are absolutely essential for raw and manufactured goods to reach their U.S. and global destinations.

But now our system is failing and our quality of life is suffering. We need a healthy, robust, and modernized surface transportation system if the U.S. economy is to perform like a star athlete attaining full potential.

Now, our country is like an athlete struggling for oxygen who cannot compete and achieve the dream. It's past time for our country's leaders to “get real” about the desperate need for timely and adequate surface transportation funding. They need to act now, and we ask your help.

This issue of transportation infrastructure affects every business, family and individual in the U.S., which is why our association launched the I Make America campaign. This campaign emphasizes the need for a fully functioning transportation infrastructure system and heightens awareness of how manufactur ing is essential and critical to the U.S. economy. We need policies that will increase manufacturing jobs across all industries, not just construction.

You can be part of the effort to persuade Congress to enact a fully funded, multi-year highway bill. Your voice will become a vital part of I Make America's effort to press Congress to pass that legislation this year. This is a campaign that directly benefits you. When you sign up, you become a part of the I Make America campaign; your voice will be heard in Congress where decisions are made about how your tax dollars are spent. You can be part of the solution by joining.

American manufacturers lost 4.7 million jobs in the last decade and we∏d all like to reverse that trend. While unemployment rates vary from state to state, the overall national unemployment rate of nine percent is unacceptably high. We conducted a voter poll, and all participants nationwide — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — overwhelmingly agreed (83%) that modernizing and rebuilding infrastructure is a jobs issue and it∏s a safety/quality of life issue. How we “pay the bills” is also crucial, especially with the country's budget deficit, and we know Congress can adopt innovative funding mechanisms for investments in surface transportation infrastructure that will not add to the national debt.

We hear a lot about bipartisanship from Washington, and funding for surface transportation improvements offers a great opportunity for Washington to show bipartisan leadership. We caught a glimpse of this recently when Slade Gorton, a former Republican Senator from Washington, and Ed Rendell, a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, wrote that “the growing concern over our nation∏s soaring budget deficits ∇ coupled with too many in Washington who equate investment in infrastructure with earmarked spending — has led many to argue that this is the wrong time to increase true infrastructure investment. They could not be more mistaken.”

They are mistaken because we need job creation across the country, especially after the devastating recession and its still-lingering effects. Infrastructure investment is a proven engine for economic growth, for the manufacturing sector and across the entire economy. For example, a study by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) reported that, in round figures, 28,000 overall jobs are created nationwide for every $1 billion of federal spending on highway construction. About half of those jobs are generated outside the construction industry, which means infrastructure funding is good for everyone.

Our safety and quality of life are greatly influenced by the country’s surface transportation system, and the personal and aggregate costs of its deteriorating condition are far greater than most people realize. The Road Information Program (TRIP) points out that the personal cost to each U.S. motorist of driving on roads in need of repair is $324, or $67 billion annually. Wouldn’t you rather spend your $324 on other things than new tires, shock absorbers, and brakes? Add the costs of time lost in congested traffic arteries and the high price of gasoline to that figure and you’re talking about real money.

We all want more efficient travel and greater mobility choices, but to reach those choices we need roads and bridges we can depend on for the next several decades, not just the next year.

Another reason to raise your voice now is the looming deadline for the previously-extended “highway bill,” SAFETEA-LU (the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users). Its scheduled expiration was September 30, 2009, but with stop-gap continuing resolutions the deadline now is September 30, 2011. Adding your voice to the funding effort between now and September 30 will make a difference in getting a new bill passed.

Prosperity is in everyone’s interest, and the need for bipartisanship makes the I Make America campaign all the more important to all of us. This campaign gives you the opportunity to be part of a critical national grassroots effort so that manufacturing is able to prosper and grow right here in the United States. When we succeed, all of America wins.

Dennis Slater is President and Secretary of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). He oversees operation of all association programs, which focus on core service areas of market information and equipment statistics, product safety and technical support, public policy representation, trade shows, global business development services, education/training and workforce development.