Jun 7, 2023 - Politics & Policy

First look: "Shovel-ready" shortage gets bipartisan legislation

Sen. J.D. Vance attends a banking committee hearing last month. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senators Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are introducing legislation to address the shortage of "shovel-ready" manufacturing sites, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: "For a lot of small towns and tribal communities, the biggest barrier to attracting investment is the cost of getting sites ready for development. We're working to fix that," Kelly said in a statement.

  • The bill would establish a $500 million grant program over five years for towns to equip potential manufacturing sites with road access, water infrastructure, broadband, power utility hookups and workforce training.
  • The legislation would prioritize rural and tribal communities as well as poor regions with high unemployment and outmigration, according to a copy of the bill reviewed by Axios.
  • The program would be administered by the economic development administration under the Commerce Department.

The big picture: Over the past year, the U.S. has passed a series of bills —including the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes subsidies for renewable energy, and the Chips Act promoting semiconductor production — aimed at boosting domestic industry.

  • President Biden has been touting the amount of private manufacturing investments that have come as a result, making it a core piece of his 2024 re-election platform.
  • Republicans, too, are making the argument, particularly in the parts of the South and the Midwest where most U.S. manufacturing is concentrated, that it is vital to onshore jobs from other low-wage countries.

The bottom line: "This bill would deploy capital broadly to ensure the foundations of tomorrow's industry and growth are laid in underdeveloped regions," Vance said in a statement.

  • "If enacted, it will deliver good-paying jobs, build vibrant communities, and strengthen supply chains — in Ohio and around the country, " he said.
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