The 2021 American Jobs Plan: Possibilities for Current’s Customers

At the end of March, the White House released details of The American Jobs Plan (FACT SHEET: The American Jobs Plan | The White House), which outlines detailed concepts that fit together into the President’s vision for infrastructure spending. While the exact details of future spending or laws will be worked out through the legislative process, looking at some of the specifics emphasized in the plan illuminate areas that could be of benefit to our industry.

Transportation and Infrastructure

The highest probability grouping of ideas covers traditional surface transportation topics that conceptually has strong bipartisan support (although strong differences exist on how to fund):

  • Repairs to Roads and Bridges: $115 billion
    For context, the plan adds the objective to “modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets.” The areas that will be targeted were clarified to include from the “most economically significant large bridges” to “12,000 off-system bridges currently in poor condition.” Commentary also emphasized safety and resiliency as well as ensuring benefits and job creation for rural/tribal communities.
  • Road Safety: $20 billion
    This area is less defined but focused on “reducing crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians.”
  • Transit (including stations), Airports, Ports and Inland Waterways: $207 billion
  • Coordination on Infrastructure Permitting
    While not direct spending, the plan also includes ideas to streamline permitting processes.

Outdoor lighting is obviously a key aspect of all these projects as well as indoor lighting for any related buildings. In addition to high-quality photometric performance, mechanical construction and electrical component reliability, we expect that the availability, installation time and coordination logistics will be a significant factor in product choice due to the sheer quantity of projects that would need to occur in a short period of time. Given the President’s earlier Executive Order relating to strengthening Buy American provisions, BAA/TAA requirements should be expected.

Public Buildings, Schools and Hospitals

A second grouping of funding is targeted at public buildings that the Administration feels represents infrastructure. This group is more contentious between the political parties in how infrastructure is defined, however there has been previous evidence of bipartisan support for these types of projects. There are possibilities of these types of projects being included either in a single omnibus legislative infrastructure action with the surface transportation initiatives, although it is more likely that these topics will be incorporated into separate energy-based legislation.

  • Public Schools and Community Colleges: $112 billion
    Upgrades to existing public schools and the construction of new public schools are mentioned. Community college infrastructure funding would be focused on addressing education deserts. In all cases, there are ties to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency and promoting resilience.
  • VA Hospitals: $18 billion
    The plan aims to modernize hospitals and clinics with a procurement directive for low-carbon materials and clean power.
  • Federal Buildings: $10 billion
    Construction or renovation to modernize for more sustainable and resilient buildings.

Additional clues on possible outcomes for this grouping can be gained by looking at bills introduced both in 2020 and 2021. In these other proposals, higher emphasis was placed on energy-efficient retrofits and targeting higher risk areas. There was also previously much higher spending proposed for buildings and all types of hospitals, so it is possible that there will be significant changes before this grouping is completed.

Domestic Manufacturing

Finally, the plan includes significant funding for domestic manufacturing that spans everything from workforce development to R&D on the latest technologies. This is the category we’re watching that is the most distant from traditional infrastructure.

  • Domestic Manufacturing, Semiconductors, Clean Energy, etc.: $300 billion
    There is potential for high-performance industrial lighting to be a component in many of the building- and energy-related aspects of these projects.

As in any negotiated situation, the first offer of a broadly encompassing plan should be viewed as overshooting the intended outcome. Legislative activities on these topics were underway before the issuance of The American Jobs Plan and have continued since. The issuance of this plan was helpful in outlining key areas and drawing an indicator at where the future final actions will head.