Updated: 4:56 p.m.
President Joe Biden told a small audience at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount Tuesday that the infrastructure funding law he signed will revitalize American competitiveness and help rebuild the middle class.
In his first trip to the state as president Biden said U.S. infrastructure used to be the best in the world, but that it’s been slipping. He said the $1.2 trillion measure will change that.
“We’re going to help America win the competition for the 21st Century,” Biden said. “We’re getting back in the game.”
Using a semi-truck as a background, Biden stressed the need for skilled workers and said schools like the technical college can provide them.
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He said technical and community colleges are a key part of his plan.
“Places like this, we're going to train the next generation of workers to do the jobs that my infrastructure law and our Build Back Better Act are going to put into even greater demand,” Biden said. “We're going to need more qualified people.”
Biden said the jobs would include electric vehicle mechanics, line workers to improve the power grid, commercial electricians to install vehicle charging stations, and construction managers.
Biden first met with students in a garage space with a bulldozer, backhoe and cargo truck. The president stressed to the students the importance of education as part of the infrastructure package, even though the administration says the jobs being created won’t require college degrees.
Biden's $1.75 trillion social and economic bill, which he is still trying to get through the Senate, includes $5 billion for community colleges to expand workforce training programs.
“Technology moves so rapidly,” Biden told students. “You’ve got to get an education to make it work.”
The trip occurs at a crucial pivot point for Biden, who is facing the threat of the new omicron strain of the coronavirus and high levels of inflation as vital parts of his agenda are still awaiting congressional approval. Biden also needs to get Congress to move to temporarily fund the government and preserve its ability to borrow as the debt limit could be breached in December.
Minnesota Republicans ramped up their criticism of Biden ahead of the visit.
They blamed the president for inflation, high fuel prices and other economic woes. Republican 8th District U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber said people are hurting.
“We’re paying more for our groceries, more for our gas, more for our everyday items,” Stauber said. “And it’s hurting middle-class Minnesotans’ and middle-class Americans’ pocketbooks.”
State Rep. Kurt Daudt, the Republican minority leader in the Minnesota House, said Biden’s visit is a good reminder to Minnesotans about the president’s economic policies.
“We certainly want to welcome President Biden to Minnesota,” Daudt said. “We welcome the opportunity to contrast our ideas with these failed ideas.”
Biden holds out the infrastructure package, containing money for roads, bridges, broadband, water systems and a shift to electrical vehicles, as evidence that he can work across the political aisle. The measure passed with solid Republican support.
One key obstacle for the infrastructure package will be having enough skilled construction workers. Labor Department figures show that roughly 7.5 million people hold construction jobs, nearly as many as there were during the housing bubble about 15 years ago. Builders say it's been difficult for them to find workers and the spending on infrastructure could only increase demand further.
Biden won Minnesota in last year's presidential election with 52.6 percent of the vote. He's visiting the state's second congressional district, a potentially vulnerable seat in the midterms that narrowly went to Democratic Rep. Angie Craig in 2020.
The president has recently been in close contact with the heads of several major retailers, including Target, which is headquartered in the state, as he attempts to resolve supply chain challenges that have clogged ports and caused consumers to wait longer for electronics, furniture and other goods.
The supply chain challenges have contributed to prices in October rising 6.2 percent from 12 months ago, the highest pace in 31 years. The White House National Economic Council issued a report Monday suggesting that there has been progress on addressing the problems, with a decrease in long-dwelling containers waiting at ports and an increase in retail inventories.