A group of elected officials and organizations from across the country on Tuesday called for the repeal of a regulation they say prevents their communities from benefiting from federally funded local infrastructure projects.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin spoke at the virtual event, which argued that ensuring local hires can help cities and states rebuild with racial and economic equity.
“This discussion fits — it fits so much into our regional focus on training and retaining a local workforce to build the best version of ourselves, as a community and as a city, that we can be,” Woodfin said.
He joined more than 150 officials, academics and organizations who signed a letter asking President Joe Biden to overturn the prohibition. It stated:
“Since 1986, the federal regulation in 2 CFR part 200.319(c) has prevented recipients of federal grant money from including provisions that require or incentivize contractors to hire a portion of workers from communities around a given infrastructure project. At the time, the rationale for prohibiting local hire incentives was that such provisions could reduce the number of bidders on projects, resulting in an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. However, and significantly, no empirical evidence was ever cited to back up this assertion and Congress itself has never prohibited local hire.”
The stated reason for the ban was that geographical preferences would discourage businesses from bidding on projects. Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Transportation ran a pilot program from 2015 to 2017 that allowed local hire provisions in order to see if they caused the expected problems.
The Local Hire Pilot was moving forward until President Donald Trump took office and quickly eliminated it. The data that the program had collected was never analyzed.
Now, new research has shown that local hire did not harm competition or increase bid prices, according to the organization Jobs to Move America, which organized the coalition.
“The report also reveals extensive societal and economic benefits of local hire in creating jobs for local residents, especially for marginalized workers,” the group said in a statement.