CHARLESTON — Rep. David McKinley received a round of applause on Wednesday from contractors, architects and engineers for his vote in favor of a hard infrastructure package that is already beginning to pay off for the West Virginia.
McKinley, RW.Va., was a keynote speaker Wednesday morning for the annual West Virginia Build and Design Expo at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. The two-day event is hosted by the Contractors Association of West Virginia.
McKinley, one of two congressional registered engineers and founder of McKinley Architecture and Engineering, has been a member of the Contractors Association since the 1970s. Now in his sixth term in the House of Representatives since winning the 2011 election, McKinley is running his first term in the new northern 2nd congressional district.
McKinley was among 13 Republicans who backed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November, joining U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, RW .Va., who negotiated and supported the bill. Neither 3rd District Rep. Carol Miller, RW.Va., nor 2nd District Rep. Alex Mooney, RW.Va., McKinley’s opponent in the May 13 Republican primary for the new 2nd District, have supported the bill.
West Virginia is expected to receive between $6 billion and $8 billion of the bill for hard infrastructure projects, including billions of dollars in investments for broadband expansion, roads and bridges, public transportation, drinking water and wastewater, clean energy research and environmental mitigation.
McKinley said he was waiting for former President Barack Obama to unveil an infrastructure plan that never happened. Former President Donald Trump backed infrastructure investment but was blocked by a Democratic majority in the House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif. After congressional Republicans successfully separated President Joe Biden’s social spending programs from the infrastructure bill, McKinley said it was the best chance to push through a package that would benefit West Virginia.
“I’m an engineer. I’m going to do something. We identified a problem, we found a solution, and we implemented it,” McKinley said. countries will support an infrastructure bill, just make sure there is nothing related to social spending.
One of the biggest problems McKinley continues to face is educating the public about the hard infrastructure bill and explaining that Biden’s failed Build Back Better social spending plan early in the year is a separate bill. Mooney attacked McKinley’s vote on the physical infrastructure bill, mistaking the two bills as one and the same and blaming the infrastructure bill for rising inflation.
“It’s frustrating,” McKinley said. “After all these months of talking about it, people still think Nancy Pelosi may have incorporated social spending. There’s no social spending in there, and because of that, that’s how we separated the two. And then we were able to have a strong bipartisan vote in the House to pass this. And we had the same thing in the Senate.
Prior to McKinley’s speech, attendees heard updates from the state Department of Economic Development and representatives from North Carolina-based steelmaker Nucor and Canadian-based electric vehicle maker, Green Power. Nucor said it has purchased the equipment needed to produce steel and plans to begin construction of its electric arc furnace facility in Mason County this summer. GreenPower said it plans to begin rolling out electric school buses from its South Charleston facility by the end of 2022.
McKinley said the announcements were great, along with the continued expansion of other major manufacturers, such as Hino Motors in Mineral Wells, Mitsubishi Bombardier’s acquisition of the CRJ series aircraft program in Bridgeport, and Northrup Grumman expanding its footprint in the Potomac Highlands. He said these economic development announcements would not be possible without infrastructure.
“I’ve never seen so much economic revitalization, the noise that’s happening, the encouragement in West Virginia…something is happening here,” McKinley said. “Even with all of that, that’s what comes back to infrastructure. All of this wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have the infrastructure, and that’s what was important.
Nathaniel Order, president of the Contractors Association and Orders Construction Co. in St. Albans, said McKinley’s vote for physical infrastructure was important and courageous.
“Unfortunately, Congressman McKinley was criticized by some for voting for the infrastructure bill,” Orders said. “For those in this room and those in the exhibit halls, we know only too well the importance of this legislation and what it will do for the people of West Virginia who do not have access to safe roads, clean water, and working sewage systems. For West Virginia to attract prestigious companies like Nucor and GreenPower. We need to have infrastructure like that.”