Business A conversation with mayor Mitch Landrieu

A conversation with mayor Mitch Landrieu


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This week marks one year since the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed. This once-in-a-generation bipartisan bill gives the economy and major streets across America a much-needed upgrade by improving access to reliable high-speed internet for millions of Americans, upgrading airports, ports and waterways, tackling climate change, and improving of the energy infrastructure.

Ensuring that the $1.2 trillion in the law is properly and effectively managed is no small feat. So President Biden brought in Mitch Landrieu as Senior Advisor to coordinate its implementation. He served as lieutenant governor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans, spearheading recovery after Hurricane Katrina and other disasters.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mayor Landrieu about his efforts to date. I am grateful to him for taking the time and below is our conversation.

Rhett Buttle: As a former mayor, you are in a unique position to lead the implementation phase of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). What drew you to this position and why did you join the Biden administration?

Mayor Landrieu: Well, first of all I love Joe Biden and I thought he was the right person to lead this country – to stabilize us and prepare us for our future. But it was also my experience as mayor of New Orleans—after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike, and Gustav—that drew me to this position. One of my top priorities as mayor, and before that as lieutenant governor, was rebuilding our schools, buildings, roads, and hospitals. I’ve fought hard to restore and revitalize the city, and I’ve learned firsthand that progress can only be achieved through close, bipartisan collaboration at the federal, state, and local levels, and with the private sector, non-profit for-profit and faith-based organizations.

That’s why they called and said, “We have this huge opportunity in front of us. Would you help us figure out how to do it?” I was honored and up for the challenge. I was curious if we could use the lessons I learned to rebuild an entire city to cover the entire country For decades, we often heard that there was going to be an infrastructure week, and it never happened. It became a punchline under his predecessor. President Biden said, “If you elect me, I’m going to get a group of people together and Let’s get this done.” And he really did. I’m grateful to him for bringing Democrats and Republicans together and giving the nation a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build better. Thanks to his leadership, we’re building an infrastructure decade.

Rhett Buttle: It’s been nearly a year since the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed into law and the president appointed you to serve as infrastructure coordinator and oversee the nation’s largest infrastructure investment in a generation. How is the implementation going?

Mayor Landrieu: I think it’s going really well. We ran to the fire and get a lot done. We focused on three big things: 1) building a team – and that means federal, state, local, non-profit, and for-profit partners, 2) getting the funding out the door, and 3) the story tell the American people so they understand this is a great opportunity for all of us to do more. As of today, we’ve announced more than $185 billion dollars going out and we have more than 6,900 projects underway nationwide.

I’ll list a few highlights for you. First, we’ve made huge investments in roads and bridges, as well as airports and ports, to ensure clean, efficient transit and strengthen supply chains. We provide safe, clean water to millions of homes and schools by replacing lead pipes and investing in wastewater infrastructure. We bring affordable, high-speed internet to both rural and urban areas. We built the first-ever national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations. And we’re making the largest investment in history in cleaning up old pollution.

To get this done, you need to build relationships. Most people don’t realize that 90% of this money will be spent by governors and mayors. So I’ve talked to every governor and I’ve asked each of them to appoint an infrastructure coordinator, and we now have 54 across the country, including in Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. This is a one team, one battle, one mission effort that can only be accomplished if we stay coordinated across the country, both horizontally and vertically.

Rhett Buttle: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been hailed as an opportunity that will empower small businesses, especially those owned by minorities that have historically been left behind by federal programs. Can you describe how the BIL has a positive impact on small and minority businesses?

Mayor Landrieu: It will have a huge impact on them for several reasons. I’ll give you a few examples that I’ve seen up close. I was just a few weeks ago in East Las Vegas where we awarded a $25 million grant to rebuild a large corridor in the shadow of the strip called Stewart Avenue. At this time, this street, which is located in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, is not crossable. Children cannot safely walk where they need to go – to school, to the library or the playground. Pedestrians may want to shop nearby but have no sidewalks to walk on. So we’re going to rebuild that corridor, and as a result, we’re going to help businesses grow in the area. In fact, a business owner came to me that day and told me how much our investment would help his taqueria.

I was also just in Derry, New Hampshire, where we put down $75 million for Exit 4A on the I-93 freeway, largely to ease traffic congestion in downtown Derry. Through our investment, there will be room in Derry for economic development and for countless small businesses to open up. And those are just a few specific ways the president’s infrastructure bill is boosting small and minority-owned businesses.

The bottom line is that we’re very focused on making sure everyone gets a piece of the pie here. In fact, the president has set a goal of increasing federal spending on smaller, underprivileged businesses by 50% by 2025. We take that goal seriously in our implementation – we prioritize hiring minority and small businesses in many of our programs – and if we can achieve this, we will spend approximately $100 billion in additional contracts within the next three years with minority companies. This is a very focused effort by the President to ensure that we are uplifting all communities – rural, urban, black, white, brown – so that no one is left behind and everyone has access to opportunity.

Rhett Buttle: Since we’re only a year into this, what does the future hold for the continued implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – particularly the role of racial equality?

Mayor Landrieu: We’ve just started. This is a huge effort, essentially rebuilding the country. We have made great progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, people of color have to deal with the consequences of our infrastructure breakdowns — potholed roads, orphaned gas and oil wells, or highways cutting through communities. That’s why, for example, we’re going to invest $21 billion over the next five years to eliminate ancient pollution, which is disproportionately impacting communities of color and poverty areas in all parts of the United States.

There are billions specifically to address issues such as lead pipes, need for drought resilience, and inadequate wastewater infrastructure. Two million Americans have no indoor plumbing in their homes. We went to a house in Lowndes County, Alabama, where the homeowner showed us where the trash sticks out the back of the house. You can imagine being a mom and letting your kids go outside and worrying that they might accidentally play in or near the sewer while they’re there. It really breaks your heart, and we need to do better in America.

We also have $65 billion to close the digital divide in our country. You’ve heard the president say a million times that access to knowledge is the great equalizer. But today, in our 21st century economy, more than 30% of our tribal land population does not have access to high-speed internet, and rural America consistently lags behind. That’s unacceptable, which is why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is investing $2 billion in the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, as well as $2 billion in USDA’s Reconnect Program, which focuses on bringing high-speed internet to rural communities. That’s why we’ve also created the Affordable Connectivity program, which will reduce internet bills by up to $30 per month for certain households, or by $75 for tribal households. You can’t beat that deal. Almost 4.8 million households have registered so far, but we want millions more to follow. That’s why we’re working to spread the word about it GetInternet.govwhere anyone can go to see if they qualify for those discounts.

By the way, I want you to know that you can find more details about everything we talk about build.govour site with every detail you need about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Rhett Buttle: What would you say to private sector stakeholders who want to better understand the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law or see opportunities?

Mayor Landrieu: This is the most important opportunity the private sector has had in the last 60 years to grow the economy, because the government does not do all this work alone. We can’t even do half of this alone. The reconstruction of our roads and bridges or the installation of the fiber optic cable for high-speed internet is largely done by private companies. All the money we invest in clean energy will be deployed by a mix of public and private entities.

We send an incredible market signal through our investments, and private companies understand this. $135 billion has already been announced in private sector investment in the production of electric vehicles, batteries and chargers. Ford, GM and others are now spending billions of dollars retrofitting and building new plants to make new cars. You see companies like Siemens, GM and Micron announcing huge investments in building chips. Ultimately, we must work together to provide opportunities and progress in the country. One of my key messages to private sector stakeholders is this: work with us. Seize the unprecedented opportunities before us to truly innovate and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure better than ever before.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.


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