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If we are going to make the United States the best country in the world in which to manufacture, we need to invest in our inland waterways, ports, airports, highways, transit, rails, telecommunications, energy pipelines and power grids, as well as our water and wastewater systems. A stark reminder of the need to modernize these systems was the threat of a shutdown of the middle Mississippi River late last year due to drought conditions. A closure of this magnitude would have prevented towboats and barges from moving agricultural products, steel, coal, petroleum products, chemicals and other commodities critical to manufacturing. Aging locks along our inland waterway systems pose the same threat as the drought did, and any failure will affect supply chains for thousands of manufacturers, resulting in lost production time that will hurt our economy and competitiveness.
Washington caught a rare glimpse of bipartisanship when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously passed its Water Resources Development Act proposal. This is action toward addressing the long-standing issue of under-investment in our nation’s commercially navigable inland waterways, as well as our ports and harbors. These infrastructure assets ensure manufacturing inputs are received and finished products delivered.
At a time when America’s financial woes are taking a toll on every family and business, Washington needs the foresight to understand the difference between reining in reckless spending and forging ahead with strategic investment in our nation’s infrastructure. The committee’s action last week with unified bipartisan support helps pave the way for a divided Congress to focus on improving our infrastructure to help grow the economy and make us more competitive.
Ed Rendell, a Democrat, was governor of Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2011 and is a co-chairman of Building America’s Future. Jay Timmons is the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.