Equipment and congressional leaders are emphasizing the need for infrastructure funding and workforce development to support the equipment industry.
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) ended her tour of CONEXPO 2023 in Las Vegas last week by speaking with the media, along with Rod Schrader, chairman and chief executive of Komatsu America and a member of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, at the Komatsu America booth.
Speaking on equipment manufacturers’ role in U.S. infrastructure, Shrader said: “Partnerships with our customers are very important, but it’s also important for us to partner individually and as an organization with our representatives because we can’t do anything by ourselves. … It’s making sure funding gets put out and regulations that are fair, reasonable and logical [get put out].”
Cones on the road blocking traffic are the public’s typical connection to American infrastructure, Titus said. “If you can do the work quicker, the public likes it better.”
Titus said that more focus needs to be placed on infrastructure based on the U.S.’ C minus grade on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2021 Infrastructure Report Card. “You look at bridges, you look at roads, you look at airports — all of that needs to be revamped — so you got to catch up, and then move forward,” she said.
CONEXPO featured more than 2,400 exhibitors and thousands of pieces of equipment that can support American infrastructure.
“We look at this equipment, and you learn so much just looking at one machine, not just about the technology, but all the different uses can be used on a farm, can be used to build an airport, can be used to expand a highway,” Titus said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Workforce development will be key to addressing labor shortages facing equipment manufacturers and dealers, Komatsu’s Schrader said, adding that it is important for the industry to demonstrate how it “supports good paying jobs.”
The equipment companies need to show more people, especially younger people, the industry to better recruit and develop employees, Titus said.
“Related to the lack of knowledge is the fact that there’s such a need for people to go into [the construction] field,” Titus said. “You have to start recruiting people in elementary school to show them that fascination of what is involved here, so they know that this is a place to get good, exciting jobs, and get benefits.”