With an eye on U.S. infrastructure, environmental protection and competition with China, the administration debuted the American Jobs Plan in recent weeks, calling on Congress to place significant investments into rebuilding the U.S. economy. As the second part of a presidential agenda labeled “Build Back Better,” the plan focuses on job creation and improvements to infrastructure—including several implications for the glazing industry via a focus on modernizing affordable, accessible, energy efficient, and resilient buildings. The plan also calls for significant investments into research and development (R&D) and jobs for manufacturing.
In support of goals for fixing highways, rebuilding bridges and upgrading airports and transit systems, the proposal points out that — despite being the wealthiest nation in the world — the U.S. ranks 13th in the overall quality of infrastructure. Disparities in how those services reach certain communities is also questioned by the plan’s details, which plans to bring 40% of the resulting benefits of infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities.
The plan calls for building and retrofitting more than two million homes and commercial buildings. While bolstering the affordability and efficiency of housing, the plan is designed to “put union building trade workers to work upgrading homes and businesses,” according to a fact sheet on the plan. The plan will establish a $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to mobilize private investment into distributed energy resources and retrofits of residential, commercial and municipal buildings, among other initiatives.
The plan also calls for modernizing U.S. schools and early learning facilities. The plan “invests $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, through $50 billion in direct grants and an additional $50 billion leveraged through bonds. These funds will first go toward making sure our schools are safe and healthy places of learning for our kids and work for teachers and other education professionals, for example by improving indoor air quality and ventilation …”
There are also initiatives to invest in community college infrastructure, Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, and federal facilities.
In addition, the plan aims to revitalize U.S.-based manufacturing and supply chains, while expanding job availability. Currently, “Half the jobs in our high growth, high wage sectors are concentrated in just 41 counties,” the plan’s fact sheet says, “locking millions of Americans out of a shot at a middle-class job.” Even with an increased focus on automation, “America can and must retain well-paid union jobs and create more of them all across the country,” the statement adds.
The administration is seeking investments into domestic manufacturing, R&D and Job Training Initiatives to the tune of $590 billion, calling on Congress to provide $30 billion in additional funding for R&D activities designed to spur innovation. U.S. manufacturing currently accounts for 70% of business R&D expenditures, 30% of productivity growth, and 60% of exports, the proposal says.
Another $52 billion would go toward domestic manufacturers, including through existing capital access programs. Another $50 billion would create a new office at the Department of Commerce for monitoring domestic industrial capacity.
According to Kathy Krafka Harkema, U.S. Codes and Regulatory Affairs Manager for the Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance, the American Jobs Plan has the potential to help support future growth in the fenestration and glazing industry.
“The plan proposes to deliver American infrastructure that’s more resilient to floods, fires, storms, and other threats, which could help stimulate demand for impact- or blast-resistant products — and the components that go into them,” she says. “It also pledges to advance American research and development to help grow manufacturing in the U.S. At a time when many states and the federal government are setting aggressive goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, the American Jobs Plan could help trigger demand for energy-efficient fenestration and glazing products in new construction and retrofits.”
In addition, she says the plan’s proposed investment in high-speed internet may help manufacturers recruit and retain talent looking to live outside of cities.
“More access to broadband could help the fenestration and glazing industry to broaden its talent pool for jobs that can be conducted remotely, especially in more rural areas.”
She also points out that the plan’s investment to repair roads and highways, rebuild bridges, upgrade ports and airports can help with the transportation of fenestration and glazing products and the components that go into them.
“The plan could also potentially diversify markets since it targets 40 percent of benefits for climate and clean infrastructure investments to be designated for disadvantaged communities.”