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July 16, 2020

Building Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Today

In its 111-year history, the Metals Service Center Institute never has had an Annual Meeting quite like its 2020 event. With the COVID-19 pandemic curtailing travel and putting a stop to large events, more than 300 members met virtually on June 25.

In addition to its normal and necessary business, Eddie Lehner, president and CEO of Ryerson and MSCI’s board of directors chair, shared his outlook for the industry and MSCI in 2020 and beyond. Lehner’s comments included a look at the potential reshoring of metals and manufacturing operations as a result of the pandemic, and an overview of North American infrastructure investment opportunities.

A Need to Focus on Infrastructure

Lehner commented to members that “More Metal” is needed to address not just the emergency needs and basic needs of society, but represents an imperative need to modernize and revitalize our respective nations. Investments in infrastructure and machinery and equipment are investments that enable human progress across the board and have proven time and again to be a primary catalyst that brings us together and propels us onward to better days.

In a report published right before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in North America, the American Society of Civil Engineers said, “The U.S. is underinvesting in its infrastructure. From 2003 to 2017, public spending on our roads, bridges, water systems and more fell by 8%, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Today, we only spend 2.5% of our GDP on infrastructure, down from 4.2% in the 1930s.” The Society estimated that, between 2016 and 2025, U.S. and state officials will “underinvest in our infrastructure by over $2 trillion.”

According to 2019 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, which is produced by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and seven private sector organizations, infrastructure needs are as great up north. Specifically:

  • Approximately 40% of Canadian roads and bridges are in fair, poor, or very poor condition, with roughly 80% being more than 20 years old.
  • Between 30 and 35% of recreational and cultural facilities are in fair, poor, or very poor condition.
  • 30% of water infrastructure, including watermains and sewers, are in fair, poor, or very poor condition.

“‘YITTB’ is more than an acronym that might be catchy and catching on. ‘Yes Its Time to Build’ is a fundamental recognition that we have been underinvesting in our future for far too long and the road to restoration and prosperity is in fact named “YITTB,’” said Lehner. “Good things, no great things happen when we invest in our communities and connect those communities with better roads, bigger broadband pipes, fortified personal protection equipment, vaccine manufacturing scalability and the list goes on and on. Let’s not let conversations or actionable opportunities pass without bringing up and bringing about ‘YITTB.’ Let’s do it and watch how things start to get better.”

Honoring Service to Our Community

Lehner and MSCI President and CEO Bob Weidner also thanked three individuals for their service to MSCI and its community of industrial metals companies.

The 2020 recipient of MSCI’s prestigious Jack Malec Chapter Leadership award was Cordreanne Heinzen from Tampa Bay Steel who has distinguished herself over 15 years as a committed volunteer leader within MSCI’s Florida Chapter. Two prominent industry executives received Lifetime Achievement awards, MSCI’s highest honor. William M. (Bill) Hickey, Jr., Lapham Hickey Steel and Marc A. Schupan, Schupan and Sons were inducted into MSCI’s Hall of Fame.

“These three individuals are icons within our community,” said Lehner in an interview. “Their significant leadership capabilities and their willingness to give of themselves are what make MSCI and our entire industry so formidable. With their examples in mind, our industrial metals companies will weather the storm brought on by COVID-19. When we meet next year, hopefully in person, I have no doubt we’ll be in a position of strength.”