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U.S. Secretary Of Labor, USW Visit Indiana, Advocate For Infrastructure Investment

(Samantha Horton/IPB News)
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Marty Walsh speaks at United Steelworkers' "We Supply America" bus tour.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited northwest Indiana Monday to tell local leaders to start planning ways to use money from the federal infrastructure bill. Indiana is set to receive more than $8 billion if the legislation passes the House in its current form.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes funding for highways, bridge repair and replacement, public transportation and more.

“In this state of Indiana, $6.6 billion for highway programs, $400 million for bridge replacement and repairs, $680 million for public transportation, $100 million for electric vehicle charging stations, $170 million to the airport, $750 million for water infrastructure, $100 million for affordable high speed internet, $20 million to protect against wildfires,” Walsh said. "That's just an estimate of what's coming to this state."

The White House has said the $1.2 trillion investment could create about 2 million jobs a year.

Walsh said the short-term investments will have a long-term gain.

“When you think about this, you’re building new bridges, you're building new roads, you're building better, better connectivity and public transportation, commuter rail," Walsh said. "The opportunities for industry to emerge in cities that might not be there.”

Walsh recommends governors and mayors prepare projects now to access funding as soon as it is available. His visit to Indiana is part of a national tour to promote the infrastructure bill.

"We need to bring those jobs back to the United States of America. We need to bring those jobs back right here to Indiana, and other states around the country to make sure we can do it," Walsh said. "We need to make sure that we're bringing materials, produce, components, iron and steel – we need to make sure we're building that right here in America."

One of Walsh’s stops included meeting with members of the United Steelworkers union Local 6787 that were the USW’s first stop in a multi-state tour calling for investments in the country’s infrastructure.

Indiana leads the nation in steel production. Lake and Porter counties alone account for more than half of the country’s blast furnace capacity used to produce steel and other industrial metals.

The “We Supply America” tour aims to encourage people to tell companies and federal lawmakers about the need for strong investment in infrastructure and the economic opportunities it will mean for local communities.

USW International President Tom Conway said the investments the organization is calling for go beyond road and bridge repair to include schools and health care.

“We're at a turning point in our country, and we need to be behind it, we need to drive it,” said Conway. “We can't let it sit and languish and get killed in some committee in Congress. And so that's going to be our drive here, to get that done.”

The union and government officials were joined by steel producers, including Cleveland Cliffs President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves, to show their support for the USW tour. 

“We have now a very unique opportunity in this country, where this infrastructure effort that's bipartisan, that is united, as united as a union,” said Goncalves. “This is the basis of manufacturing: capitalism and democracy. Because capitalism is not about generating billionaires. Capitalism is about sharing the benefits of capital.”

The tour will make stops in six different states at USW locals over the next week.

Contact reporter Samantha at shorton@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @SamHorton5.