The biggest threat to President Joe Biden’s vision of energizing the U.S. economy with the largest infrastructure program in decades may not be its challenging path through Congress, but a dire shortage of everything from workers to cement mills.
While weeks or months of negotiations will be needed to enact legislation, Republicans and Democrats are united in their support for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending on infrastructure in coming years. Yet the companies that will be relied on to pave the roads, build the bridges, lay the water pipes and assemble the trains aren’t yet planning to meet those needs, economists and industry insiders say.
And that’s even as they face immediate shortages — from steel and cement to the supply of labor — stemming from the unprecedented difficulties of a sudden reopening of the economy after last year’s shutdowns.
“There’s already a labor shortage in construction so you can’t throw a trillion-dollar nuclear bomb of money into the industry,” said Bassem Hamdy, chief executive officer of Briq, a company that runs cost estimates for construction firms. “If you don’t have workers, how will this ever happen?”
Construction firms are still excited for more business, but aren’t