Last week in Pittsburgh, President Joe Biden delivered a seminal speech on infrastructure investment, introducing his American Jobs Plan. As someone who is conversant in Biden’s long standing leadership on infrastructure matters, much was familiar in terms of his distinctive public-private partnership investment strategy and assiduous concern for practicalities. That said, it was evolved, decidedly presidentially commanding, mission-driven, and of the moment.
The importance of the plan for finance, investment, and business decision-making is clear. There are certain ways to engage during the legislative process as well as to position your governmental, private or not-for-profit enterprise to benefit from the investment opportunity on its way.
Biden’s speech and plan can be understood in five parts.
First, the vision: For Biden, America is a land of possibilities where nothing is beyond our capacity if we work together. However, we simply cannot do so without organized infrastructure investments which equip and resource us to work together, to build back better together, to be inventive together. It’s about infrastructure.
Second, the drivers behind the plan: America simply cannot compete globally, especially with China, without an infrastructure-driven advanced manufacturing and inventive base. And, compete we must. If America does not compete effectively and thus becomes overly dependent on other countries, we will jeopardize our national security.
This would result in allowing other countries to condition our ability, as a people, to realize America’s possibilities. This is the thrust behind Biden posing the high stakes question of the day concerning whether Democracy will outcompete Autocracy. Again, it’s about infrastructure.
For the President, competing means attracting businesses which requires high caliber airports, ports, water, communications, and other infrastructures to fuel economic facilities. It means properly rewarded work in a way that has not happened to date through the strengthening of labor unions with an opportunity-based expanding membership to build back better the foundations of the economy.
Third, the sector breakdown: There are four thematic areas.
Commerce organized sectors include, among other areas, transportation in its diverse modes (airports, passenger trains, freight railroad, transit systems, ports, waterways, bridges), a nationwide network of charging stations, wastewater, clean vehicles, the electrical grid, and what have you.
Climate touches on many of these areas but also on areas such as solar, wind and other alternative sources of energy, battery technology, resiliency, energy efficiency, and other emergent technologies.
Connectivity encompasses areas such as caregiving, high speed internet, social and civic fabric, housing, economic opportunity-driven facilities with sizable discernible benefits, education, Veterans facilities, healthy water pipes.
Inventiveness includes research and development, supply chain re-engineering, transformation of advanced manufacturing. . Again, it is about infrastructure.
Fourth, the primary means for operationalizing Biden’s vision is through his distinctive brand of mission-driven public-private partnerships. Biden has a signature distinctive approach to partnerships, an area in which he is well-versed and highly successful.
These partnerships are defined by federal, state, and local governments; investors; businesses; not-for-profits; and labor unions producing results for Americans together. These groupings are internally diverse which requires such things as coordination among Biden’s close-knit family of federal agencies. Biden’s partnerships are certainly a science, but, in equal measure, an art.
Fifth are the financing mechanisms which equip these partner enterprises to forge relations and fuel projects. Biden’s distinctive partnership approach can be carried out through 10 basic mechanisms. These mechanisms are intimately interlinked with one another in practice.
In this respect, Biden’s approach to supporting financing is best understood as synthetic financing which combines very many mechanisms emanating from diverse agencies together with outside private and not-for-profit resources.
These mechanisms include the following: procurement powers such as Buy American provisions and service agreements, formula disbursements, competitive grants, leases and lease enhancements, loans, loans and loan guarantees including revolving funds, bonds and bond enhancements, zones and equity platforms, tax credits, insurance (used sparingly within disaster contexts), and also regulatory instruments such as permitting.
A successful Biden partnership program utilizes synthetic financing combining the usage of these vehicles.
The president is extraordinarily experienced and expert in synthetic financing not only as a U.S. Senator carrying out constituent services or shaping the legislative process, but also in his role carrying out the partnership vehicles within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
As you advocate for programs and vehicles or else prepare to use them successfully, ask these questions: How do they fit into Biden’s vision? How do they carry forward the drivers of his plan? Do they fit within his defined sectors and how? Are they a fit within Biden’s distinctive approach to public-private partnerships? What combination of vehicles are being synthesized?
In other words, what is your Biden story?
Even members of his opposition party will tell their own Biden story, once the plan is passed, to commandeer federal support for their local communities, their governors, their mayors, their businesses both here and on the way.
If they are eager to do it, so should you be. So, straight away, do it the Biden way.