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Remarks at International Manufacturing Technology Show, Chicago, Illinois

Monday, September 10, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks at International Manufacturing Technology Show, Chicago, Illinois

Good morning everyone! Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here to help open IMTS 2012.

I know you’re excited to get out on the show floor and to get your hands on the latest technologies, machines, and inventions from around the world. So am I. You know, I was a data nerd who went to MIT.

You’re here because you’ve got questions to ask, deals to get done, and–most important–jobs to create when you get back home with new ideas and products.

President Obama understands the need for job creation, and his commitment to U.S. manufacturing has been strong since Day 1. Today, we know that manufacturing is making a comeback. It’s a particularly bright spot as the U.S. economy recovers.

Here are three facts to back that up:

  • First, after a decade when we lost six million manufacturing jobs, we’ve now added over half-a-million back since January 2010. These are good-paying jobs that strengthen economic security for the middle class.
  • Second, our manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009–with big growth in areas like cars and car parts. In no small measure, that’s because we have a president who didn’t shy away from a tough decision two years ago to save the auto industry and all the small- and medium-sized businesses that are part of its supply chain.
  • Third, manufactured exports have increased in nearly all industry categories, jumping over 36 percent from 2009 to 2011. Last month they hit their highest value ever.

At the Commerce Department, we like to say that our goal is, “Build it here and sell it everywhere.” That’s exactly what American manufacturers have been doing and the Association for Manufacturing Technology has been helping them do that. We strongly support industry associations that keep America’s manufacturing base competitive on a global scale.

One way we do that is by helping associations reach out to their members and empower them to export to fast-growing markets. So, I’m pleased to tell all of you that the Commerce Department is giving the Association for Manufacturing Technology an award to establish a new office in Brazil. This will help AMT members enter this market and sell their products to Brazil over the next three years. Congratulations!

No matter where you’re from–everyone knows that a strong manufacturing base in America isn’t just good news for the U.S. economy. It’s good news for the global economy as well. So the question today is: How do we build on this momentum? How do we ensure that American manufacturing continues to lead in the decades ahead?

The answer–in a word–is innovation.I don’t need to tell all of you what you already know: America’s ability to make things–and our ability to innovate–are tied together.

You’ll be reminded of that as you walk around the show floor today and see places like the Emerging Technology Center. The fact is, 70 percent of our private-sector R&D is funded by manufacturing and 60 percent of our exports come from manufacturing and about 70 percent of our manufacturers rely on patents to protect their innovative ideas.

American manufacturers are making breakthroughs that keep us at the cutting edge and America continues to be the place where entrepreneurs tinker with new ideas, new processes, and new products that change the world. The problem is that too many of our game-changing ideas don’t quite make it to development or commercialization. The transfer of good ideas from lab to market isn’t always working like it should. That’s why President Obama is calling for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. This will bring together research centers and universities with manufacturers to help speed the tech transfer process.  

I just announced the pilot institute for this in Youngstown, Ohio. It involves universities, businesses, and tech transfer institutes in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and northern West Virginia. This coalition will focus on a field that’s a hot topic here at IMTS–additive manufacturing.

As you all know, 3D printing is changing the nature of how America builds things. Entrepreneurs are printing customized consumer products, from custom-fit shoes to iPhone cases. Doctors are starting to print medical devices and even organ models that could save lives. Our military is exploring how to make parts as they need them, instead of having to stock thousands of unique pieces of equipment at sea or on remote bases.

This pilot institute will be a place where researchers and entrepreneurs can afford to take risks, test prototypes, and, yes, hit brick walls, but then they’ll get back up and try again until they finally have that “Aha!” moment. And it’s built on a smart model.

Everyone has skin in the game–with a combined $70 million from the federal and state governments and from the manufacturing companies who stand to gain the most if this institute moves the research frontier forward. President Obama is calling for a billion-dollar investment to create up to 15 of these institutes across the U.S. I’m very excited about this pilot project and want to see how it evolves.

And I want to use the lessons from this particular project as we implement new institutes in other locations and focused on other promising new technologies. That’s the kind of bold action we need to take today to ensure America’s competitiveness and leadership in manufacturing remains strong in the years to come.

I’ll leave you with a quote. As you know, McCormick Place is named after a famous family which had a huge impact on Chicago over the years. Back in the 1830s, Cyrus McCormick invented a farming machine, the horsedrawn reaper. He got a patent for it from the U.S. Patent Office, now part of the Commerce Department. His invention revolutionized farming. It doubled crop production. Like many of you, he was a true entrepreneur. He had to find both investors and then salespeople to put this new tool in the hands of farmers. His motto was, “One step at a time, the hardest one first.” Over the past three years, America’s manufacturers–all of you–have led the way. You have taken the first, big, hard step to lead us out of a deep recession and pull us toward prosperity. So, thank you for all that you have done and are doing to move this industry forward in the 21st century. Together, let’s continue to create more jobs, more innovation, and more Made-in-America products for the rest of the world to see.

Thank you.