By: MJ Carrabba
ACMA has a long history as an effective advocate for the composites industry in Washington. For many years the focus was primarily regulatory in nature, assuring that federal requirements for composites manufacturing are sufficiently protective but not overly burdensome. We maintain this focus to this day, but about five years ago we agreed we can do more. We can leverage federal legislation and policy to open and grow markets for composite products. In other words, rather than play defense we chose to play offense. Of the many sectors where composites compete, infrastructure was a natural target for our efforts since the government owns or finances much of the assets and the performance upside of composites opposite the traditional competition is substantial.
Since we began down this path, our success has been noticeable. Of the past six major infrastructure bills approved by Congress, all have included innovation provisions in large part driven by ACMA efforts. We have launched and continuously grown our annual Infrastructure Day fly-in and ACMA members have testified before Congress twice in as many years on composite infrastructure solutions. Recently, we have secured bipartisan support for millions of dollars of research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to expand the standards and design database for composites.
Our greatest achievement to date, however, came in early August 2018 with the introduction of the Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded Act– or IMAGINE Act. The premise of the IMAGINE Act is simple – whether you use composites or another material, when it comes to infrastructure investment in America we can do better by building better.
The IMAGINE Act would create new grant programs, one at the Federal Highway Administration for bridge construction and repair and one at the Environmental Protection Agency for water treatment and distribution, that provide funding to municipalities to use innovative materials like composites and others in projects designed to reduce lifecycle and maintenance costs and extend the service life beyond traditional performance. It would also promote research on the next generation of infrastructure solutions by authorizing Innovative Material Innovation Hubs and creating an interagency taskforce on standards development for innovative infrastructure.
The bill has been introduced in the Senate (S. 3341) by Sens. Whitehouse (D-RI), Alexander (R-TN), Rounds (R-SD) and Booker (D-NJ) and in the House (H.R. 6653) by Reps. Esty (D-CT), Comstock (R-VA), and Cicilline (D-RI). ACMA worked with these offices for close to two years develop the IMAGINE Act from infancy. Along the way, though, we’ve secured support from companies and associations across the infrastructure value chain and developed a coalition committed to the effort. This coalition will be essential in seeing the tenets of the IMAGINE Act signed into law.
For ACMA as an advocacy force, this is a historic moment. We are no longer just along for the ride on legislation, we are now in the driver’s seat. And we are not pushing one composite solution, we are advocating for a paradigm shift in how this country handles infrastructure investment.
But the journey is far from over. To see the IMAGINE Act signed into law, or its major tenets integrated into a broader infrastructure package, we need to significantly increase support on Capitol Hill for these ideas.
In Washington, we have our marching orders. But we need the industry to act. ACMA is asking members to work with us to secure your Members of Congress as sponsors. Learn more by accessing ACMA’s Infrastructure Toolkit on the member portal for important resources including pre-drafted messaging to send to your Senators and Representatives, contact information for congressional offices representing your plant locations, and issues documents to aid you in your discussions about the IMAGINE Act.
For more information, contact ACMA Government Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.