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Small Businesses Deserve More Than ‘Functionally Obsolete’ | Commentary

We’re still in the first days of spring, but I know one of the highlights of the summer for me and for my district is going to be Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark on the Cincinnati riverfront. Not only are baseball fans gearing up for this fun tradition, but the countless small businesses that support the sports industry as a whole, and the city of Cincinnati, have great hopes for the game and all of its associated activities.

Visitors flying into Cincinnati will land at the airport across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky. They’ll get down to the Cincinnati waterfront in a rental car, a cab or through a ride-sharing business and they’ll probably drive across the Brent Spence Bridge, a main artery connecting Ohio and Kentucky, the Midwest and the South. Approximately 172,000 cars cross the bridge every day and about $417 billion in freight crosses the bridge every year.

Underneath the bridge, even more billions of dollars in goods journey along the Ohio River to navigate our inland waterways on their way to businesses within the United States and beyond. Barges full of coal, riverboats full of tourists, and many small businesses are alive and well on the river itself.

This busy scene from the Cincinnati waterfront isn’t a postcard from home. It’s America’s small businesses in action.

I’ve spoken about the Brent Spence Bridge as Cincinnati’s representative in Congress on many occasions. This bridge, which is critical to the local, regional and national economies, is classified as “functionally obsolete” by the federal government for its failure to meet safety and traffic flow standards.

Some Americans may not think twice about how the condition of our roads and bridges impacts our local economies, and frankly, they shouldn’t have to. But the fact remains, crumbling infrastructure is not only a threat to public safety, it is a threat to all of our local economies — to every Main Street in every small town in America.

Time spent in traffic means a lot of things to a lot of hardworking Americans. If you are a florist, getting stuck in traffic means your deliveries aren’t as fresh or as fast as they should be. If you are an electrician, it means that time you could have used installing electrical wiring on new homes will instead be spent in a car. If you are an HVAC repairman, it means you can’t make as many house calls in a day as you otherwise would, which directly impacts your bottom line. If you are a manufacturer, it means longer time for your products to get from one place to another, which is money out of your pocket.

America relies on its infrastructure for the efficient transportation of people, goods and services. Safe and reliable infrastructure is doubly important to small businesses.

Our roads and waterways pave the way for the American Dream. For young entrepreneurs, owners of the family business and small-business employees at a local establishment — who make up half of the total workforce — the efficiency of our infrastructure and transportation system remains paramount. Safe access to roads, bridges and ports is the lifeblood for economic stability, not only in my home of Cincinnati, but in small-town America and metropolitan areas alike. Whether it be agriculture, manufacturing, tourism or the countless other goods and services made available in our free enterprise society, reliable infrastructure continues to be the driving force and common denominator. The fact that it leads us to a baseball park is just an additional plus.

Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, is chairman of the House Committee on Small Business.