Washington — The potential for gains from new infrastructure spending was a top focus for plastics and manufacturing groups in President Trump's State of the Union address.
The Plastics Industry Association, for example, called for a "level playing field" for the material in infrastructure spending, and it urged a focus on upgrading the U.S. recycling infrastructure as part of the $1.5 trillion plan Trump called for in his Jan. 30 speech.
"Plastic materials and products should be allowed to compete on a level playing field for the improvement projects that will eventually form the president's infrastructure plan," said Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Washington-based group. "Furthermore, we urge policymakers not to overlook the nation's recycling facilities when it comes to what needs upgrading."
He called the infrastructure debate a "unique opportunity" to increase plastics recycling and upgrade facilities.
The Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries also highlighted the potential for federal infrastructure spending to boost the scrap recycling industry.
In addition, the American Composites Manufacturers Association urged policymakers to consider new materials like plastic composites in government rebuilding programs.
"Rebuilding our infrastructure with 20th century materials would be a waste of taxpayer money," said Tom Dobbins, president and CEO of the Arlington, Va.-based group. He urged Congress to develop a plan that provides adequate funding and that does not "shift the cost to already strapped state and local governments."
The president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons, tied infrastructure to increasing manufacturers' competitiveness.
"Manufacturers were very encouraged to hear the president call for a $1.5 trillion investment in infrastructure improvements in this country," he said, adding that it "will help us become more competitive and hire more people and lift the quality of life for all Americans.
"At the same time, we were encouraged to hear the president focus on workforce development and training opportunities," Timmons said.
Other manufacturing voices had a more critical take.
Scott Paul, president of the Washington-based Alliance for American Manufacturing, wrote on Twitter that the infrastructure comments lacked buy American provisions, and he said the trade language was heavy on rhetoric.
"Very concerned after #SOTU about the direction of Trump's trade and infrastructure policies," Paul wrote. "Trade was all rhetoric, nothing new, and could have been given by Obama, Bush, or even Clinton. Infrastructure included no Buy American commitment. We've got work to do."
As well, Paul argued that a large part of the job gains in manufacturing in 2017 reflected growth in the global economy.
"Yes, @realDonaldTrump is right: 196,000 #manufacturing jobs added last year," Paul wrote. "Only 2014 and 2011, both under Obama's watch, were better since Great Recession. Gains have more to do with global economic strength than anything else."
But NAM noted that 2017's job gains were a turnaround from net job losses in manufacturing in 2016, and the group has been heavily touting what it says are no net gain in regulations and other positives from the Trump administration.
Timmons said Trump's speech was "very impactful" for manufacturers in part because one of its member companies, Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Dayton, Ohio, attended as a guest of the White House. Timmons tied recent growth at Staub to the Trump administration's tax cuts and regulatory changes.
But the NAM leader also urged Trump and Congress to come up with a solution to allow people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also called the Dreamers program, to remain in the United States. DACA covers people who were brought to the United States as children illegally.
"We were also very pleased to hear that he's calling for a path forward, in a bipartisan way, for those dreamers who know no other country besides the United States," Timmons said.