Congressman Dan Kildee Pushes Action on Flint Water Crisis, Infrastructure Investments at White House Meeting of President’s Export Council

December 3, 2015

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) today spoke at the White House about the Flint water crisis and the need for critical investments in our nation’s older, industrial cities like Flint, Saginaw and Bay City, especially when it comes to improvements to our infrastructure and aging water systems.

Congressman Kildee’s remarks came at a meeting of the President’s Export Council, where he is one of only five members of the U.S. House of Representatives appointed to advisory board. The President’s Export Council is the principal advisory council to the president on trade and manufacturing, made up of both government and private sector leaders. Since his appointment in January by former Speaker of the House John Boehner, Congressman Kildee has used his position on the council to push for policies that support American workers and American cities. It has also allowed him to advocate for economic policies that create jobs and boost U.S. manufacturing exports.

“A lot of cities are left behind, and it’s largely because we have not given them the tools that they need to succeed,” Congressman Kildee said today in his remarks. “It’s really important that we invest in these older communities. They can do wonders for our country, they can create greater equity, and they can actually grow our economy, but we’ve got to unleash their capacity, and it’s going to take significant investment to do that.”

A video of Congressman Kildee’s remarks can be viewed here, starting at 1:01:25. To learn more about the President’s Export Council, visit http://trade.gov/pec.

A full transcript of Congressman Kildee’s remarks, as delivered at today’s meeting, is below:

“Thank you very much, and thanks for giving us each a few minutes to comment. As Congresswoman [Suzan] Delbene said, when we leave, it will not be because we’re rushing from the room due to something that [U.S. Trade Representative] Mr. [Michael]Froman said – it’s because we have to go vote.

“Let me explain a bit. The goals of this organization are obviously critical to the success of this country and to the growth of our economy. But I want to hone in on a particular aspect of the challenge that we face, and for those of you who are not aware, I come from a town called Flint, Michigan. Flint is the birthplace of General Motors. In 1908, GM was founded in that community. But it is a city that has experienced extraordinarily difficult times in the last several decades. So the focus that I want to bring and support is the focus of the Export Council on the need to reinvest in our productive capacity.

“Obviously there has been an important debate on how we engage global trade, and there will continue to be, I think, a very important debate within Congress as to how we do that. But as important as that – perhaps more important – is how we support expanding the productive capacity that we have here in the United States to make, to produce those sorts of products that we then can sell, not only to our domestic market, but across the globe. Essential to that, from my perspective, is a much stronger emphasis on reinvesting in those older industrial communities. I think about some of the companies represented in this room, many of which were really born of innovation that occurred in the last century in those older industrial spaces that we have seen wither in ways that I think are really completely unacceptable.

“I just mentioned my own hometown of Flint, and I’ll just use this one anecdote. Today, as we sit here, in Flint, Michigan – a community that put the world on wheels – that community cannot ensure to its residents clean, drinkable water. It’s a city of 100,000 people, that for 14 months had lead levels in its water system that were so high that 7,000 children under the age of five – for 14 months! – were exposed to lead in a way that will affect the trajectory of their lives permanently. This, in the twenty-first century, in the wealthiest nation, at the wealthiest moment in its history, in a community that could greatly contribute to the productive capacity of this nation, but has not been able to fully realize that because we, as a nation, have allowed our older cities to atrophy.

“So there is no trade agenda that can be fully realized that doesn’t have us going big – going real big – investing in infrastructure, in ports, in rail, in roads and bridges, in IT, and in water infrastructure. While we will take an important step forward in sort of getting back to where we need to be, with a less than temporary approach to transportation infrastructure, I just really hope that we can, as a council, and particularly the private sector leadership which has been so critical to this question, find a way to move an agenda that has us reinventing in those places that were once really important to the development of our productive capacity, and I firmly believe are essential for that in the future.

“There are many cities, even during periods of economic growth, and I speak from experience – I was in local government for 33 years before I came to Congress – there are many cities that are often left behind, even during periods of great economic expansion. You go to the 1990s and see what happened in all the private sector job growth that we saw; the private sector job growth that we’ve seen in the last five, six years has been extraordinary, but a lot of cities are left behind, and it’s largely because we have not given them the tools that they need to succeed. We see some of our competitors spending, in some cases, ten times what we are as a percentage of GDP on that basic infrastructure. And especially when we look at how difficult it is for these older cities to reposition themselves, I think it is incumbent on all of us, but particularly I’m imploring our private sector leaders, to continue to speak up on this question, because your voices are so critical.

“It’s really important that we invest in these older communities. They can do wonders for our country, they can create greater equity, and they can actually grow our economy, but we’ve got to unleash their capacity, and it’s going to take significant investment to do that.”