West Virginia’s Infrastructure Opportunity

Behind every great product or successful business is a solid foundation–a set of systems that ensures things run as smoothly as possible, much like infrastructure. A great restaurant, for example, may be a simple experience for a patron–book a reservation, arrive, dine, pay and leave. As you sit and enjoy your meal, unbeknownst to you (if you have never worked in the service industry), there is a well-oiled machine composed of hard-working individuals and carefully-built software systems that make it all happen. Now imagine if one of those hard-working pieces were missing.

Online booking systems and staff are integral parts of the restaurant industry. Should this system fail in any way, there are several domino effects that can occur, but the strongest hit is quite simple–if customers can’t make reservations, or there aren’t enough staff people to prepare and serve meals, that restaurant doesn’t make money.

So, you may ask; what does this analogy have to do with infrastructure? And, how do we define infrastructure? Composed of public and private physical structures such as roads, bridges, and water supply systems, as well as non-physical elements such as internet communications, infrastructure makes all other work and all other productivity possible. Infrastructure allows us to do together what we can not do on our own.  It is the backbone of a functioning the economy.

Not only are well-paved roadways and clean tap water basic necessities, but these and other systems also provide jobs for millions of citizens across the nation. Like the online booking system and staff in our restaurant metaphor, these jobs are an important part of the bigger picture–a well-oiled machine. In this case, that machine is a healthy economy. Without modern infrastructure and the jobs it creates, a thriving economy cannot exist.

The American Rescue Plan has earmarked millions of dollars to help states recover from the COVD-19 pandemic and revitalize critical infrastructure. A recent report by National Transportation Safety Administration states that “West Virginia has the most deteriorated interstate highway bridges in the United States” and ranks West Virginia among the worst in the country for percentage of interstate pavement in poor condition.

It is crucial that we use the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to not only rebuild West Virginia’s crumbling roads and bridges, but also to take this opportunity to energize West Virginia’s economy.

To do the latter, we’ll need to make sure the jobs the ARP produces go to local workers and that the wages paid to these workers are fair. Local workers spend their paychecks in state at local business and pay taxes here. Imported workers do not. We must be sure that unscrupulous, low-ball contractors and their imported workers don’t once again swoop into our state and steal the jobs and  opportunities the ARP could bring to our local communities.

You might think, ‘There must be a law to make sure that tax-funded jobs go to local workers… a law that guarantees fair wages, but you would be wrong. In 2016 that law was repealed. That’s right, West Virginia’s Prevailing Wage Law that gave local contractors and workers first crack at the good-paying construction jobs our tax dollars create was repealed. The repeal hurt thousands of Mountain State families and never produced the tax savings that were promised. Now, more than ever it’s important to correct this error and reposition West Virginia for an economic rebound.

Much like the missing reservation software and staff in our restaurant analogy, Prevailing Wage Law is a what’s missing from our state’s economic recovery. States that have Prevailing Wage laws are prospering. These state’s workers and residents are sharing in the economic benefits of the American Rescue Plan. West Virginia has an opportunity to reap these benefits as well – if we act now to restore our prevailing wage law. You can help.

Find your West Virginia representatives here and reach out to them to let them know you would like them to reinstate the Prevailing Wage Law.

You can help restore the Prevailing Wage Law by signing the petition. Sign your name, share with your friends, and let’s restore the Prevailing Wage Law to help keep our young people here and move West Virginia forward.