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Accelerating Advanced Manufacturing in America

Cross-Posted from The White House

Blog by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Jeff Zients 

On Monday, we had the privilege of participating alongside the President in a meeting with his American Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee.

AMP -- led by its co-chairs, Dow’s Andrew Liveris and MIT’s Rafael Reif -- presented its final report with a set of new recommendations, and we discussed additional policy steps we’re taking to respond to them.

The President created AMP -- a working group of 19 leaders in industry, academia, and labor -- in June 2011 as part of his continuing effort to maintain the competitive edge on emerging technologies and invest in the future of our manufacturing sector. We’ve come a long way since then, and the policies fueled by AMP’s recommendations have been a big contributor to that progress.

When the President first launched AMP, unemployment was at 9.1 percent. We were just starting to see some fragile signs of life in the manufacturing sector after more than a decade of erosion. But not many shared our view that together we could build a foundation to revitalize American manufacturing or that manufacturing could continue to play a central role in our economy and our ability to innovate.

Contrast that picture to today. Growth has steadily strengthened and recently accelerated, with GDP rising 2.6 percent over the past year, faster than the 2.0 percent annualized pace of the preceding two years. Job growth is accelerating too. Unemployment is now down to 5.9 percent, falling 1.3 percentage points in the last year.

Our manufacturing sector is getting stronger too. After more than a decade of job losses, we’ve added more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs over nearly five straight years of job growth. Those jobs lead to others along the supply chain and in local communities. U.S. manufacturing is now growing at nearly twice the rate of the economy, the longest sustained period of outpacing the overall economy since the 1960s.

Last year, for the first time since 2001, the U.S. was ranked first in a survey of business leaders as a destination for investment, a ranking we repeated this year. In another recent study, 54 percent of American manufacturers with operations overseas reported they are considering bringing manufacturing back to the United States. 

And AMP has been central in getting us here.

AMP helped change the dialogue about manufacturing, by elevating the focus on manufacturing’s central role in our economy and its potential. It built on our substantial competitive positioning, and it understood how the knowledge and know-how that comes from making things fuels our pipeline of innovation.

AMP’s final report, released this week, includes new recommendations to address three key pillars that support American manufacturing: innovation, the talent pipeline, and the business climate. To support these recommendations and further strengthen American manufacturing, the President is taking new executive actions that will target these areas, so the U.S. remains a magnet for good jobs and investment.

To enable innovation, we’re announcing $300 million in investments in three technologies critical to our manufacturing competitiveness -- advanced materials including composites and bio-based materials, advanced sensors for manufacturing, and digital manufacturing. And we’re taking steps to connect industry and universities on research and development as well as develop ‘technology testbeds’ within Federal research facilities where companies can design, prototype, and test a new product or process. These investments will sow the seeds for tomorrow’s breakthroughs.

To grow the talent pipeline, this fall, the Department of Labor will launch a $100 million American Apprenticeships Grant Competition to spur new models and scale effective apprenticeships in high-growth fields like advanced manufacturing. AMP members Dow, Alcoa, and Siemens have launched apprenticeship pilots and a “how-to” guide for other employers looking to use apprenticeship as a proven training strategy.

And to close the innovation gap between smaller and larger firms, we’re helping small manufacturers upgrade their supply chain to the latest technologies. The Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which serves over 30,000 U.S. manufacturers each year, will build new capabilities at its state-based centers and pilot a competition for $130 million over five years across ten states to help small manufacturers adopt new technologies and bring new products to market.

These new investments build on previous actions the President has taken since AMP first gathered in 2011. In response to AMP’s first report, President Obama has already launched four manufacturing innovation institutes with four more on the way, which will bring us to more than halfway to our goal of 15; invested $1 billion to upgrade job-training programs at our community colleges; expanded investments in applied research for emerging, cross-cutting manufacturing technologies; and launched a new initiative to deploy the talent of returning veterans to in-demand jobs, including in advanced manufacturing.

This progress was an excellent example of how sustained partnership between leaders in the private sector, labor, academia, and government can bear fruit -- creating good ideas that are both visionary and doable. We look forward to continuing to make progress in the areas AMP identified as the capstone of their work on Monday and the continued strengthening of our manufacturing sector as a central pillar of our economy for years to come.

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