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DOT to scrap proposed local hire program for infrastructure projects
Kirill Abbakumov   on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

On August 24, 2017, the U.S. Department of Infrastructure (DOT) announced that it will withdraw a proposed rule developed under the Obama administration that would permit local governments to use geographic hiring preferences for transportation infrastructure projects.

DOT does not permit recipients or sub-recipients of federal funds to impose in-state or local geographic preferences in procurement processes unless those preferences are explicitly permitted or encouraged under federal law. However, many communities have sought to use “local hire” provisions to help ensure that low-income individuals and other underrepresented populations in or near infrastructure projects are able to benefit from jobs created through these investments.

The Obama administration previously sought to expand access to local hire provisions under federal transportation contracts, launching a pilot program under DOT to allow for local hire initiatives in at least 10 states. DOT also issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in March 2015 that would have explicitly permitted such provisions, but the DOT withdrawal announcement signals that the Trump administration will not be carrying forward this important effort.

With President Trump’s continued support for a major infrastructure package, and more generally his campaign promises to focus on job creation and economic growth, the withdrawal is particularly disappointing for economic developers at the state level. A recent report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimated that a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create more than 11 million new jobs in construction, manufacturing, and other critical sectors.

America currently lacks a well-designed infrastructure bill that could include significant new investments in work-based learning strategies and work supports that help to diversify the pipeline of workers into these new jobs is essential for promoting economic opportunities while also helping employers address existing and future workforce gaps. The bipartisan Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act, introduced earlier in 2017, is only one such attempt at encouraging investment in industry-driven partnerships in infrastructure sectors while also supporting critical pre- and post-employment services to help low-skilled individuals advance in these careers.