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Investment in infrastructure is essential in helping bolster the U.S. economy, according to CEOs at KeyBanc Capital Markets’ 17th Annual Industrials & Basic Materials Conference.

“The government needs to be the leader in this space, not a secondary player,” contends David Burritt, CEO of U.S. Steel. “I don’t know how you have industry lead something like this. We need an infrastructure bill. It should have been the first bill on the docket because it creates the greatest opportunities for growth, jobs and economic success.”

Burritt feels strongly that the U.S. is behind in infrastructure investment. He believes the implementation of a five-year highway bill would be a great way to create enduring, high paying jobs to help boost the economy.

“We need not just to do the roads and buildings, but also cyber security,” Burritt says. “These are absolutely essential. The challenge is going to be what does this mean to the deficit and how soon can we get it in place.”

“It’s going to be tricky,” says Stuart Bradie, CEO of KBR. “Politically, the agenda is set. They want to move ahead with infrastructure. But it’s hard to do at the federal level. It’s got to be done at the state level. It’ll be patchy in terms of where it gets implemented.”

One of the proclaimed objectives of the current administration is to use a lot more private financing, he points out. There are a number of toll road projects that have happened, but Bradie believes Congress needs to put legislation and structure around projects like those before Wall Street invests in them.

“We’re just not along in that cycle yet,” Bradie asserts. “It’s aspirational at the moment.”