In what is believed to be President Trump’s first speech before a construction contractors group since his 2017 inauguration, the National Electrical Contractors Association heard the president praise the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and also touch on infrastructure.

[View YouTube video of speech here.]

Trump didn’t announce new programs during his roughly 40-minute address on Oct. 2 at NECA’s annual meeting, held in Philadelphia. But he did say the trilateral trade pact, announced one day earlier,  as “a great trade deal.” [View White House transcript of speech here.]

Trump also provided some time in the spotlight for some NECA members to address the gathering.

At the outset, NECA President David Long gave Trump a hardhat with the presidential seal, the American flag, and NECA decals.

“That’s beautiful,” Trump said. “Thank you.” He refrained at first from donning the hat, joking, “I don’t want to put it on because I’m afraid that I’ll mess up my hair.” But then he did put on the hardhat, to applause from the crowd.

Long also noted  that NECA has committed to helping to add 60,000 electrical contracting jobs over five years.

Trump praised the contractors, saying that “the job you do is incredible.” He added that “now, you have a friend and an ally in the White House.”

In addition, Trump hailed the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers as “a very special group of people who always get the job done and get it done right.”

Among other topics, Trump said, “We’re committed to revitalizing our infrastructure and strengthening our electrical grid.” He cited his administration’s program to cut federal regulations, and last year’s decision to approve the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and the administration’s initiative to expedite federal permitting decisions for major projects.

Toward the end of his speech, Trump called on top managers of electrical contracting firms to speak. Stacy Wilson, vice president with Wilson Construction Co. in Canby, Ore., said that the tax legislation and the economy have helped her firm spend more on workers’ wages, benefits and bonuses and “spending millions of equipment and assets.”

Steve Gianotti, president of Arcadia Electric in Ridgewood, N.Y., said Trump’s fiscal policy had let his company “bid on more work and take on more jobs.” He said the company plans to hire about 25 more workers in 2019, a 25% increase.

Liam Nickelaides, a member of electrical workers’ Local 98 in Philadelphia, who is in the union’s apprenticeship program, recounted how, after he had returned from a three-month Air Force National Guard deployment, was able to go back to the education program with the local.

Trump's first speech before a construction group after his inauguration came in April 2017, when he addressed North America's Building Trades Unions.

Story changed on 10/23/2018 to note that Trump's first post-inauguration construction group speech was in April 2017, before the building trades unions.