AEM Holds ‘state of the industry policy update’ Press Conference Call

AEM LogoRecently AEM held a “State of the Industry Policy Update” press conference call with 2013 AEM Chair and Caterpillar Group President Stu Levenick and AEM President Slater. They discussed equipment industry and policy priorities.

Following brief opening comments Slater opened the conference call with: “First of all, thanks to a dramatically increased level of exports, the construction equipment sector continues to rebound from the great recession.  Unfortunately, domestic shipments are still down significantly from their peak in 2006.  We can also report that, on the agricultural side, the equipment business is in a much better place with sales at a record high. Domestic shipments have grown every year since 2006.

“I  want to point out that maintaining a strong agricultural economy is important to the nation’s manufacturing sector and the U.S. economy overall.  Thanks to exports, the equipment manufacturing industry has been lifting back from the recession.  But more needs to be done to improve the U.S. economy, which would increase domestic shipments and spur job creation in the U.S.”

Selected comments from Q&A period:

Skilled Workforce:

Stu Levenick: (The shortage of skilled workers) is certainly an issue in the United States. And I think that’s an industry-wide phenomenon.  The simple fact is we’re not creating through appropriate educational means the skilled labor force coming out of our high schools and junior colleges.  Most manufacturers I think, are trying to play a role.  But it’s increasingly a challenging task really to find qualified people to work in today’s 21st century manufacturing industry.

Dennis Slater: To add to what Stu was saying, what we found with our members as we looked for national efforts on the skilled workforce is that so much of it is a local approach. Our companies are saying they’ve had to establish relationships with the local high schools and technical schools.

Gas Tax/Infrastructure Funding/Fixing the Nation’s Debt:

Dennis Slater: Jack Schenendorf has worked with us on trying to find solutions beyond just the gas tax. (References AEM study from Schenendorf on long-term viability of Highway Trust Fund).

We realize that the user fee is just not going to keep up with where we’re going.  And we do not see Congress as having the appetite to really address that. They will not do an increase right now. We continue to explore other ways that we can go forward.

I think our goal as an organization is to try to offer as many solutions as possible in addition to a user fee. We recognize that right now we’re just not going to have the funding if we don’t start taking action on all fronts.

Stu Levenick: I would just add that with the two-year extension of the highway bill, I think there is broad recognition on both sides of the (Congressional) aisle that this is something critically important to the economy, and that was encouraging.

What we need is a long-term sustainable funding model, and I don’t know that there is one way.  As we look around the world at other countries, certainly we see combinations such as user fees and public and private partnerships.

At AEM we view ourselves as having two years to work through advocacy with key policymakers and come up with something that makes sense for the country long-term.

Dennis Slater: (highway funding in context of fixing the nation’s debt): With fiscal responsibility, the key is having a healthy economy overall. If you don’t address the debt, it’s going to continue to drag down the economy. So, we look at this as a top priority.

Transportation infrastructure funding is an investment to keep the U.S. competitive. … But you need a long-term and self-funding solution.

Stu Levenick: When we signed on last December with the rest of the business community to call on Congress to fix the debt, it was for a balanced approach towards spending and revenues, to prioritize those things that would produce economic growth.

The nation’s infrastructure is really a foundation for a vibrant economy. You can pick any number of ratings today and you find the United States is falling behind relative to other countries in the world. We need to make some investments, not just spending but investments that are going to produce infrastructure that really provides a long-term return.To read a summary of the discussion visit:

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