Transportation, union jobs, energy independence frame Biden's Portland speech
President Biden speaks at Portland Air National Guard 142 Fighter Base. Photo: Jason E. Kaplan
Oregon’s decline in unemployment is proof the economy is recovering, Pres. Joe Biden told a crowd that included public employees, airport workers, union organizers and Oregon lawmakers Thursday afternoon.
That recovery, he added, can be attributed in part to federal stimulus dollars, including the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act he signed into law last November.
Biden’ remarks at the Portland Air National Guard 142 Fighter Base during a brief visit Thursday highlighted the positive impact his infrastructure bill is poised to have on Oregon transportation, union workforce, and resilience in the face of extreme weather patterns.
"We have to rebuild our infrastructure and a good place to start is right here in Portland," said Biden, referring to PDX runway and terminal upgrades funded by the spending package.
He also touted water, rail, and broadband infrastructure funding as investments that will help Oregon modernize and improve its economy. The president acknowledged $42 million will be spent on Oregon airports, including $19 million for Portland International Airport.
Photo: Jason E. Kaplan
"America used to invest in itself but it has been too long since we've done it. Our infrastructure has meant we have fallen behind our competitors,” he said.
Biden also used Oregon’s semiconductor and mass timber industries as examples of innovative domestic manufacturing the infrastructure bill was designed to support. He mentioned Intel by name as a domestic employer contributing to Oregon’s manufacturing growth.
The president acknowledged high gas prices and inflation, and said investments in renewable energy would help get the country off the "roller coaster of relying on oil," and "declare American energy independence."
Biden emphasized the importance of building strong union jobs in Oregon and across the country. Biden claimed he used the word 'union' more than the past seven presidents combined, and that 95% of jobs created by the infrastructure bill are using union labor.
President Biden greets a union worker during his April visit. Photo: Jason E. Kaplan
"American union workers are the best workers in the entire world. Nobody can outproduce them when given a level playing field,” Biden said.
Gov. Kate Brown. Photo: Jason E. Kaplan
Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR, 5th District). Photo: Jason E. Kaplan
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon). Photo: Jason E. Kaplan
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR, 1st District). Photo: Jason E. Kaplan
Biden’s speech was preceded by remarks by several prominent Oregon Democrats, including Gov. Kate Brown, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). The President as well as Oregon lawmakers discussed the proposed I-5 bridge across the Columbia River connecting Oregon and Washington as an example of the infrastructure investment making a big investment in Oregon's economic future.
After he spoke, Biden went to the Portland Yacht Club to fundraise for the 2022 midterm elections. He did not take questions after the speech.
"I wish he had come here to announce he canceled all student debt, but I believe in the importance of infrastructure," said Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president of The Urban League, who told Oregon Business at the event that she welcomed the opportunities brought by the infrastructure package.
"If there was a way to get from Portland to Salem quickly and reliably on mass public transit, that would open up a lot of doors for a lot of people,” Harmon Johnson added. “We live in Bridge City and our bridges are not in good shape."
Prior to Biden’s address, Oregon Republican Party chair Herman Baertschiger issued a press release blaming the president for rising gas prices, inflation and crime, though he did not say which specific policies posed a problem.
“Instead of attending a swanky fundraiser at a yacht club for national Democrats, Oregonians want to know what he is doing to reduce gas prices and reduce crime,” Baertschiger’s statement said. “He won’t address these issues because he knows his policies are what caused our record-high gas prices and out-of-control crime spike."
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