This post has been updated.
On an unseasonably warm March day in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood before a crowd of labor leaders and alderman and announced his plan for "Building a New Chicago," a set of infrastructure projects priced at $7 billion. The mayor promised better schools, bus stations, city buildings, parks, and playgrounds. He compared the initiative to the rebuilding of the city after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
In his speech, Emanuel touted the creation of 30,000 local jobs, many of them union.
But he said little about where the materials for the infrastructure projects would come from. What steel would be used to replace a century-old water pipe? Or to construct new railcars? Where would he source the materials to modernize city schools?
After all, some $200 million of the $7 billion check will come from private investment, which is not subject to "Buy American" provisions. Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, told Whispers the group was worried that Chicago would turn to China for materials.
But the Mayor's spokesman Tom Alexander said there was no reason to worry. He stressed that the majority of the project will be subject to the “Buy American” laws.
Last year, there was a major backlash after the Bay Bridge was built in San Francisco with steel mostly from China.
Paul hopes that Emanuel will turn to Indiana to acquire its steel from the project, as Indiana produces a huge amount of steel, "right across the bridge."