CEDAR RAPIDS — If he’s elected president, infrastructure will get more than a week’s time, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said Friday as he toured Iowa communities.
“Infrastructure is foundational to growth,” the Ohio congressman said during a stop at Paulson Electric/SiteGen Solar in Cedar Rapids.
Ryan, 45, a nine-term House member from northeast Ohio, discussed infrastructure during stops in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City on Friday as he campaigned for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Communities that have broadband, adequate water and sewer system, and flood protection, for example, are poised for growth, Ryan said at SiteGen.
“That means your economy can grow, jobs can come, and you can increase your tax base, and that means you can have better schools and a better community,” he said.
Ryan said he understands the challenges Iowa communities face because “I come from an area that looks a lot like Cedar Rapids, a lot like Waterloo, a lot like Burlington.” He has experienced the loss of manufacturing and jobs, erosion of downtowns and disinvestment in communities.
“You look at the methamphetamine issue in Iowa, and we have an opiate issue in Ohio,” Ryan said. “This has been my life, too.”
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Ryan said, he’s been able to get funding for many projects in his district. But he’s come to the conclusion he can’t solve the nation’s problems as one of 435 House members.
“These problems are so structural that I think we need somebody in the White House that has been on the ground for a while really understanding what the economy needs and how to move it forward,” Ryan said.
“You need somebody who’s from a place that’s been getting the short end of the stick for decades to actually be in a position of power to say, ‘I know what the people need because I’ve been from the forgotten community, too,’ ” he said. “I’ve been living in the epicenter of deindustrialization my entire life, and I think somebody who understands that is the best person to be in the White House.”
Ryan called for more investment in solar energy infrastructure like he saw on SiteGen Solar’s rooftop, where eight rows of solar panels provide one-third of the electricity the company uses, according to SiteGen President Tyler Olson.
Those panels generate jobs, too, Ryan said.
“My vision is that we make those with American workers,” he said, adding that solar and wind energy creates a downstream demand for installers and maintenance technicians — “union workers making 50 bucks an hour. This is our sweet spot. This is where we need to go.”
And it’s doable, he added, not with the trickle-down economics of tax cuts for the top 1 percent, but as “an intentional industrial policy, environmental policy.”
Ryan will be back in Cedar Rapids for the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebrations on June 9.
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