Grasping the Impact of Policy

Michael Keck
Chairman, FEDA
President, Concept Services

When you imagine the coastline of Southern California it brings to mind warm beaches and endless blue waves. The people of Long Beach have long protected that idea through local ordinances, including one that prohibited the Port of Long Beach from stacking more than two 8-foot-tall containers on top of each other. That kept the view of the ocean intact for people living nearby, but as West Coast ports grew increasingly congested all year it became clear that the container stacking rule was contributing to the backups in at least a small way.

The ordinance was temporarily lifted in October, part of a wider effort to speed up container circulation, but it remains a reminder of how local, state and federal policies can impact businesses. There are so many moving parts and every piece influences our operations and the effectiveness of our solutions. When you step back and look at the whole picture, it can feel like we’re pawns in something too large to grasp.

But we should not be discouraged from understanding the interconnectedness of policy and challenges like the supply chain crisis. By making our voices heard, we can encourage legislators and policymakers to support businesses. Take, for example, the recently enacted $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It’s not a perfect bill by any stretch, as it funds way too many things not traditionally thought of as infrastructure, but the plan does include (if you read real close) a path to create jobs and tend to roads and bridges that are long overdue for improvement.

The bill’s timing is challenging because it will inject even more money into an economy that is already reeling from high inflation. It will be interesting to see how this will affect costs in the future. Further, the raw materials needed to manufacture the steel beams and rebar for infrastructure projects will channel resources that are already in short supply to products needed for government funded projects. This will likely reduce the supply of resources needed to manufacture the shiny, pretty, stainless steel that goes into our industry’s ovens, refrigerators, fryers and walk-in coolers. It is reasonable to assume that we could see additional shortages hit the foodservice equipment market as a result.

The spirit of a true infrastructure bill is that the American people realize the value of the long-term benefits, knowing there is always a price to pay, right now. There’s an old saying, “Sometimes you got to build a swimming pool that you will never swim in.” That’s the true spirit of moving forward. If the infrastructure bill is managed the way it should be – and if our elected officials can align their short-term goals with our long-term interests – it’s a great idea.

The outcomes from the infrastructure bill and other public policies are worth tracking. As I’ve watched the supply chain crisis unfold, I’ve realized businesses that understand these problems are better able to help customers see the gravity of what they are up against. They may not always like the reality, but operators appreciate our knowledge and are more willing to work with us to find a solution.