Biden: Invest in Infrastructure to Boost Manufacturing

Posted by elizabethbb on 06/10/2014

Vice President Joe Biden today called for greater investment in infrastructure to help support U.S. manufacturers and grow the economy.

Speaking at the National Association of Manufacturers’ 2014 Manufacturing Summit, Biden said technology development and innovation give the United States a unique competitive edge compared to the rest of the world. But the United States needs to do more to support those innovators, the vice president noted, as the nation needs about $3.6 trillion worth of infrastructure improvements by 2020.

The United States ranks 28th in the world for transportation infrastructure investment, for example. “If we don’t significantly modernize, we’re going to lose the competitive advantage," Biden said.

Panama Canal project windfall at risk

The vice president  pointed to the example of the Panama Canal to illustrate the pressing need for infrastructure investment. The canal is currently undergoing a major expansion that will allow it to accommodate massive ships measuring up to 160 feet wide. Since two-thirds of all ships that pass through the canal begin and end their journey in the United States, the expansion will provide a huge boost to manufacturers shipping their goods via ship.

But a significant number of U.S. ports, especially those along the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, will be unable to accommodate ships that large.That means many manufacturers won’t be able to take advantage of the expanded canal, putting them at a disadvantage against competitors from nations that can accommodate the larger ships — and it's why the U.S. should invest in the infrastructure of its ports.

Doing so won’t just help those shipping goods, either, Biden noted. Millions of jobs are supported through the ports. The Port of Savannah in Georgia alone supports 260,000 jobs, for example.

"Why is this so complicated?"

In addition, Biden called for comprehensive immigration reform to support manufacturers, and said more must be done to help train and place a highly skilled workforce of people who can fill high tech manufacturing jobs. At the moment, there are roughly 100,000 high tech jobs that cannot find workers with the appropriate skills, Biden said.

“Why is this so complicated? That’s an opportunity we’re leaving on the table,” he added. “No business should ever be held back by the lack of a skilled workforce. People are ready, willing, and able to do what it takes to move ahead.”

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