New Analysis: The Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act

Do you know what’s in the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that President Joseph R. Biden signed on Nov. 15, 2021? It’s probably the most important bill devoted to the construction industry since the Federal Highway Act of 1991. But not a lot of people know what’s in it. On its surface, though, we know it is devoted to rebuilding the country’s failing infrastructure, which is an important accomplishment.

How will the bill affect the metal construction industry?

By Paul Deffenbaugh

How does that goal—and the other elements of the bill—affect the metal construction industry? Not a lot of people can answer that either. But there are clues about how it could play out.

The IIJA includes about $450 billion of new investment with the remainder going to reauthorization or extension of existing programs.


The White House has identified these benefits from the bill:

  • Repair and rebuild our roads and bridges.
  • Deliver clean water and eliminate lead service lines.
  • Provide universal access to high-speed internet.
  • Make largest investment in public transit in U.S. history.
  • Upgrade airports and ports to strengthen our supply chains.
  • Make the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak.
  • Build a national network of electric vehicle chargers.
  • Upgrade our power infrastructure with focus on renewable energy sources.
  • Make our infrastructure resilient.
  • Deliver the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history.

The bill provides the kind of funding needed to modernize the country’s aging and overburdened infrastructure.

“The bill provides the kind of funding needed to modernize the country’s aging and overburdened infrastructure,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). “State and local officials will be able to invest in a more efficient supply chain network. They will also be able to improve roads and bridges to make them safer and more reliable. Metro areas will be able to better maintain and expand transit systems. And water authorities will be able to further safeguard the quality of local drinking water, among other improvements funded by this bill. The measure also provides needed investments to make infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events.” (See the chart.)

There is an immediate and near-term benefit from the bill as well. IIJA will increase construction spending 5% in 2022 and 5.5% in 2023 according to Moody’s Investors Service.

The Associated General Contractors of America did an analysis of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and identified investments that relate to the construction industry. The column on the left represents new investments contained in the IIJA. The second column adds the new investments to existing programs that were reauthorized and funded by the bill. Source: Associated General Contractors of America.

Ken Simonson, chief economist of AGC, offers a caution about expecting immediate impacts. “My overall view is that very little of the funding will translate into orders for metals or other materials in 2022, because of lags in selecting, advertising and choosing contractors for specific projects. But over the next several years, there will be very substantial increases in many categories of projects and in the demand for the materials and equipment to build them, and even in factories to produce those items.”

Labor Shortage Impact

More money means more work and more jobs and more materials and more manufacturing and more jobs. But there can also be intangible benefits that the security of funding can bring. “Construction, like most industries, is struggling to attract, train and retain qualified workers,” says Simonson. “I hope that having an assured flow of money for several years will help convince workers that construction provides more job security than it may have previously. In addition, many of these projects will make a lasting, positive impact on people’s lives and environment. Hopefully, that will attract workers who want to make a difference in their careers and have something tangible to show others.”

My overall view is that very little of the funding will translate into orders for metals or other materials in 2022, because of lags in selecting, advertising and choosing contractors for specific projects.

Don’t discount the importance of steady funding allowing people to make positive impacts. That is one of the major motivations for millennials and Gen Z workers in identifying careers. Unless construction can provide those opportunities, the industry will always have a disadvantage in attracting young workers compared to other industries.

Impact on the Metal Construction Industry

The chart identifies the topline investments for the construction industry, but does little explain how the IIJA will impact the metal construction industry. A significant portion of these funds will go to segments of the industry where metal building materials have little impact, such as roads and bridges, water infrastructure and broadband. Of course, as investment flows to those projects, AEC companies will begin investing in offices, warehouses, manufacturing facilities and other buildings that will increase demands for both metal building systems and metal building components. The true breadth of that impact is nearly impossible to measure.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a Washington, D.C.-based international law firm that is also the largest lobbying firm in the United States. It broke down the bill into very specific impacts. From that, we identified areas that will bear directly on the metal construction industry.

Buy America Requirements

All iron, steel, manufactured products and construction materials for projects that receive funding from the bill must be produced in the United States. If a company wants to build an equipment warehouse and uses funding from the IIJA, the steel for that metal building systems must be produced in this country. This is a change from previous Buy America requirements, which did not subject construction materials to the requirements.

Airport Programs

Airport expansions and runways do not usually affect our industry, but there is $25 billion in supplemental funding for airports that hits areas specific to metal construction. $5 billion is for the airport terminal program, where a considerable amount of metal wall and roofing components are used.

Another $5 billion is set for facility and equipment funding, which will include hangars. Metal building systems are ideal solutions for airplane hangars.

Public Transportation Programs

Bus and bus facilities are allocated $5.5 billion, which means there will be construction of new bus terminals and garages as well as expansion of such facilities.

Energy Efficiency and Building Infrastructure

The IIJA includes funding for grant and loan programs designed to make energy-efficient improvements. Among them are $500 million in grants for energy-efficiency improvements to public schools, and $3.5 billion for weatherization assistance for both residential and commercial buildings.

There are dozens of other areas where the metal construction industry will be directly affected by the IIJA. These were just a few of them.