Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


January 15, 2021


What happened? In the annual State of American Business speech this week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue outlined the path for a widespread economic recovery through a bold agenda of infrastructure investments, workforce reskilling, immigration reforms, and reinvigorating America’s global competitiveness. Additionally, he warned that excessive regulations and anti-competitive taxes would undermine the recovery.

To complement the speech, the U.S. Chamber developed three State of American Business Policy Power Hours highlighting common-sense policy solutions for strengthening the recovery on the international, national, and state/local levels.

In the second of three Policy Power Hours, Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber and Marty Durbin, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Energy Institute, led discussions on how broad-based support for infrastructure, workforce development, and immigration reform could work together to spread prosperity more widely and equitably across the country.

Fill me in: The U.S. Chamber’s top legislative priority is rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure. To that end, the U.S. Chamber, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and more than 140 national and local organizations launched the “Build by the Fourth of July” campaign, urging newly elected and reelected members of Congress to enact a fiscally and environmentally responsible infrastructure package by July 4, 2021.

Durbin led a panel discussion focusing on the diverse support for comprehensive infrastructure legislation, highlighting the new campaign, with representatives from the National Wildlife Federation, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Laborers’ International Union of North America. The campaign brings together a diverse group of organizations calling on Congress to enact comprehensive infrastructure legislation that will:

  • Repair and update our crumbling infrastructure
  • Stimulate our economy and create middle-class sustaining jobs
  • Address climate change
  • Promote fiscally and environmentally responsible policies
  • Improve federal project approvals
  • Address the digital divide

Bradley then led an expert panel discussion on workforce development and immigration reform. Despite the pandemic-related slowdown, the demand for skilled workers is greater than ever in some sectors, but availability remains in short supply. According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study, 74% of hiring managers agree that there is a skills gap in the labor market with 48% saying that candidates lack the skills needed to fill open jobs.

The solution? Closing the skills gap and the people gap by working with employers to give workers 21st century skills and engaging with policymakers on common-sense immigration reform.

Key Quotes:

On the need for a comprehensive infrastructure package by July 4.

  • “Our long-term economic recovery requires building a governing coalition committed to bipartisan solutions, and tackling a long overdue bipartisan infrastructure package is an immediate way the new Congress and new administration can demonstrate their shared commitment to the betterment of the country.” — U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue
  • “A robust and comprehensive infrastructure package must be top priority for this new administration and Congress…Congress must send a big, bold, broad, and bipartisan infrastructure package to the president by July 2021.” — Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU)
  • “We believe that a significant effort around infrastructure investment is a critical part of moving the country forward.” — Jason Grumet, founder and president of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
  • “I believe that we can build the broad Congressional support needed to get infrastructure done, but both sides of the aisle and organizations like all of ours—really need to recommit to this. The margins of a Democratic majority are slim, and so both sides are going to need to come to the middle to get anything done.” — Yvette Pena-O'Sullivan, executive director, LIUNA.
  • “We think the stars have finally aligned to have a big conversation…We believe you don’t have to choose between good infrastructure policy and reducing emissions and making ourselves more resilient—we can do both…We’re thrilled to be part of the coalition.” — Collin O’Mara, president and CEO, National Wildlife Foundation.

On the importance of broad-based workforce development plan.

  • “The longer that someone is out of work, the harder it is for them to get a job and reenter the workforce. Every time that occurs that’s a tragedy for that individual and their family, but it also means the overall economy suffers…That’s why reskilling is such a top priority for us at the Chamber.” — Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

On common-sense immigration reform.

  • “In 2017, 3.2 million immigrants owned their own businesses. They employed approximately eight million Americans and generated $1.3 trillion in sales. They’re very much the bedrock of local economies that are really going through a tough stretch right now.” — Ali Noorani, president and CEO, National Immigration Forum
  • “These are families, they’re raising their children…They want their children to grow as part of the American Dream. They are the Dreamers…We’re dependent on this immigrant workforce, not just in my sector, but in many other sectors of the economy. I think it’s time for us to rally around a common position and make a difference for these folks.” — Tom Stenzel, president and CEO, United Fresh Produce Association

Get involved: The Build by the Fourth coalition is urging policymakers to work together for the greater good of the American people and enact a fiscally and environmentally responsible infrastructure package as one of their first priorities.

To learn more and get involved, visit the Build by the Fourth website.

What’s next: Please join us Jan. 15 at noon Eastern for the final Policy Power Hour on state/local issues with national impact.

Additional Resources

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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