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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at The Big M Event

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered keynote remarks at the Big M Convergence event in Detroit, Mich., a gathering of manufacturers and policymakers dedicated to developing and implementing real-world solutions to the most complex challenges facing the manufacturing industry. In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker discussed the Commerce Department’s role as the architect for America’s manufacturing policy and how the Obama Administration and Commerce Department work to strengthen U.S. manufacturing through catalytic investments and public-private partnerships, such as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Secretary Pritzker also cited a new study released today by the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration, which found that U.S. manufacturing is growing steadily. In fact, since the end of the recession, U.S. manufacturing output has increased 38 percent and the manufacturing sector has created more than 640,000 quality jobs. Discussing the Administration’s efforts to develop more effective, jobs-driven workforce training, Secretary Pritzker also announced a new initiative by SME and 3D Systems to help high school students develop the skills necessary to compete in the 21st century economy.

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery

Thank you. It is an honor to be here at the Big M Convergence with engineers, business leaders, and investors who are moving American manufacturing forward. And a special thanks to our hosts, SME and your current President, Mike Molnar. I am so pleased to be here because Mike also serves as Director of the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, an important national resource housed at the Department of Commerce. I am encouraged to see Mike both coordinate policy on the government side and implement it through his service with SME. We need the public and private sectors to work together now more than ever – to focus our investments on areas with the highest potential for growth.

Today, I want to discuss where the Commerce Department is leading the Administration’s efforts to support the expansion of manufacturing in America and where we need your help. The Commerce Department serves as the architect for America’s manufacturing policy. Although we do not invest as heavily in manufacturing R&D as the Defense Department, Health and Human Services Department, or Energy Department. And we are not directly responsible for employment policy or the workforce training that manufacturers need, like the Labor and Education Departments. And we do not have a major regulatory role in manufacturing, like the EPA or the USDA.

However, the Commerce Department does play the lead role in ensuring all of these efforts are coordinated, integrated, and focused on the needs of you: manufacturers. We do this through our leadership of the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. Our objective is to break down silos across government and encourage meaningful public-private partnerships at every level to move American manufacturing forward. In other words, we are trying to make public-private manufacturing programs and policies work better.

I would like to outline exactly what that means. The Commerce Department recognizes that to grow our manufacturing base we must invest in activities like training, R&D, and helping small suppliers be best in class. Government’s unique role is to make catalytic investments and convene public-private partnerships. Our goals are:

  • First, to ensure that America leads in the discovery, innovation, and production of cutting-edge technologies such as 3D printing, composite materials and green technologies.
  • Second, to help American communities attract investments that ensure broad prosperity and long-term competitiveness.
  • Third, to advise American manufacturers, especially small to mid-sized firms, on the latest technologies and best-in-class business practices.
  • And finally, to insist that employers have a leading voice in federally-funded workforce training.

While different communities have put some individual components of this approach in play, the Detroit area has brought them all together to create one of the most robust manufacturing centers in the country.

Just this morning, the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration released a new study titled “Manufacturing Since the Great Recession.” It found that U.S. manufacturing has turned a corner. You all know that. For the first time in over 10 years, both manufacturing output and employment are growing steadily. Since the end of the recession, output has increased 38 percent and the manufacturing sector has created more than 640,000 quality jobs. Not surprising, Michigan is one of five states that, together, account for more than half of those jobs. Why? Because Detroit and its surrounding communities have built a manufacturing epicenter – that attracts private investment, keeps businesses competitive, and supports good jobs for American workers.

As I just mentioned, the Department of Commerce wants to ensure that America leads in the 21st century in the discovery and production of cutting-edge technologies. That is why the Department of Commerce designed a major Administration initiative called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), an exciting public-private partnership model that can strengthen our long-term competitiveness. The concept for NNMI actually came to us from the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a Presidential advisory board I co-lead, and which just yesterday held its national meeting here at the Big M.

The basic idea behind NNMI is to create what we call “innovation ecosystems” around the country. These regional centers for industry and academia—from large companies to their smallest suppliers; from major research institutions to community colleges—work together to make breakthrough technological advances that will benefit a region’s manufacturing base, rather than just a single company. The concept is similar to U.S. investments in Sematech and German investments in the Fraunhofer Institutes.

The first NNMI institute, focused on 3D printing, was announced in 2012 in Youngstown, Ohio. Named America Makes, it currently has 94 members, including universities, community colleges and nonprofits, along with a whole host of manufacturers like 3D Systems, a global leader in “additive manufacturing,” also known as 3D printing. 

Last month, I met with Avi Reichental, the CEO of 3D Systems. He told me about how his grandfather, a cobbler, who worked tirelessly to make and repair shoes by hand – and how he now wears a pair of shoes that he designed himself and manufactured using 3D printing technology. Avi reflected on how 3D printing is inspiring a new generation of Americans to make things again – to become the next generation of local craftsmen and women. He discussed how that could usher in a new wave of entrepreneurs, and mini-manufacturing renaissances in every U.S. city. 

To maintain our global competitiveness, it is absolutely essential that we continue to develop nationwide 3D printing and a host of emerging technologies. And the Administration is already hard at work to build on our momentum and expand on our success – starting, in recent months, with our announcement to add three more NNMI institutes to drive innovation: in power electronics, located in North Carolina; in digital manufacturing and design, located in Chicago; and – right next door in Canton, Michigan – an institute focused on lightweight metals, which will help American-made cars become safer and more energy-efficient.

President Obama knows we cannot stop there if America is to lead the world in manufacturing. So he announced the establishment of four additional manufacturing innovation hubs, including one focused on advanced composites. But in order for the NNMI to realize the vision of a national network as conceived by industry, we need Congress to act. With legislation, Commerce can build a true network that allows institutes to collaborate and share best practices—that network will be stronger than multiple institutes acting individually.

The good news is there is bipartisan legislation pending in the House and Senate. The bill enjoys strong support from both parties, and it is imperative that this measure reaches the President’s desk this year – to ensure we meet the needs of industry and sustain our global competitive edge in advanced manufacturing. Other countries are making game-changing investments along these lines and America cannot afford to be left behind. We have to do better and we have to do more. I encourage you to make your voices heard on this issue and support the expansion of more manufacturing institutes across the United States.

Our second goal at the Department of Commerce is to help American communities attract more manufacturing investments. America is ranked the #1 place to invest and grow a global business, according to AT Kearney’s 2013 Business Confidence Index. But capitalizing on that ranking requires businesses to partner with local and federal governments to establish comprehensive plans that support the infrastructure necessary to attract prospective investors.

Two weeks ago I announced the first dozen “Manufacturing Communities,” a multi-agency designation led by the Commerce Department, through a new program called the Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnership, or IMCP. This federal designation, awarded after an extensive competition, recognizes communities that should serve as models for the rest of the country – because they each have a clear strategy to become a magnet for manufacturers and because they have coordinated their efforts in key areas, like workforce and training, supplier networks, research and innovation, infrastructure and site development, exporting; and access to capital. Recent research shows that communities who make these investments in a coordinated fashion experience higher growth in employment, wages, number of establishments, and number of patents.

Not surprisingly, a consortia from Southeastern Michigan, including the cities of Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Pontiac, was named one of the first IMCP manufacturing communities. The public-private partnership they have assembled produces 22 percent of all vehicles made in America and at $14 billion a year, accounts for over 70 percent of total U.S. auto research investment. Their IMCP plan is designed to transform their community into a world-class location for developing connected-vehicle technologies, allowing cars to communicate with each other and with the road itself, and these cars will be developed with new lightweight materials (including some designed and built at the NNMI just down the road in Canton).

The point of IMCP is to incentivize this type of smart, comprehensive, and integrated economic development planning across the country. And this is only the beginning. Soon, the Administration will launch a second IMCP competition to designate the next round of manufacturing communities.

Just as IMCP will help ensure communities are ready for sustainable long-term manufacturing growth and investment, SelectUSA will help bring new investors directly to communities around the country. SelectUSA is the first-ever foreign direct investment promotion arm of the federal government. Through SelectUSA, the Commerce Department serves as an ombudsman for foreign investors. We introduce them to local economic development organizations, and we help them navigate the federal regulatory landscape. This effort is especially important for manufacturing communities, where  foreign direct investment is already making a tangible difference to local businesses.  Consider  what we saw between 2009 and 2013: $330 billon out of $770 billion in foreign direct investment—or 43 percent—was invested in the manufacturing sector.

SelectUSA has translated into real progress on the ground right here in Michigan: in 2012, SelectUSA helped a Canadian-based supplier, AGS Automotive, open a new facility just 45 minutes up the road from here in Sterling Heights. That $21 million investment has already created 90 new jobs and supported 50 existing positions.

The Commerce Department’s third goal is to help American small and mid-sized manufacturers become even more innovative and productive. In each state, we co-fund Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers, like the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, where experts and consultants provide practical advice to local manufacturers of all sizes, helping them transform their business plans, access new technology, and increase exports. The MEP centers are particularly helpful for companies going through a major change, whether launching a new product, introducing a new process on the factory floor, or facing new competition. 

Nationally, every federal dollar invested in MEP generates nearly 19 dollars in new sales growth for our clients. Locally, that often translates directly to new jobs. For example, Vantage Plastics, located just north of here in Standish, makes products ranging from plastic pallets to kayaks. Last year, the company’s leaders came to the MEP center because they were facing thinner margins, employee cutbacks, and a decrease in sales. The MEP Center helped them develop an 18-month strategic plan to transform their company – and it is working. Vantage Plastics has already seen a 20 percent increase in sales to new markets. Their profits have risen by $127,000. They are expanding into a new physical plant. And they are on pace to hire 60 more employees. These are the kinds of results the Department of Commerce wants to see nationally.

I strongly encourage you to reach out and use your local MEP center.  Their experts are here to help you and your peers reach your business goals and objectives, including deploying new technologies, expanding facilities, introducing more efficient processes, increasing exports, or hiring, training, or re-training workers.

Finally, the Commerce Department’s fourth goal is to give employers a stronger voice in workforce training so that employees have the exact skills and qualifications that industry needs. To accomplish that, we need to break down silos among businesses, colleges, universities, government, labor, and other regional and national institutions.

In April, I traveled with President Obama and Vice President Biden to Pittsburgh to announce investments in training programs that respond to the skills needs of local employers. To offer one example: during that visit, we announced $500 million in what are called “TAACCCT” grants. These grants are awarded to community colleges that partner with individual companies and national industry associations to expand job-driven training programs. For the sake of the success of our workers and the prosperity of our economy, we cannot stop with any single set of grants or awards.  We must continue investing in a stronger, better-prepared, well-trained, well-educated workforce.

Research shows that 87 percent of workers who complete apprenticeships get good jobs and will make $300,000 more over their lifetime than their peers. That’s why we’re investing $100 million in an apprenticeship grants competition, targeted at providing support for apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.

The Administration’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) – which I co-chair – has also launched two apprenticeship efforts led by Dow, Alcoa, and Siemens. These companies are teaming up with community colleges in Northern California and Southern Texas to train welders to work with high-performance alloys and to train maintenance technicians. Just yesterday, AMP previewed what worked for these groups at their national conference right here at the Big M. We will need employers like you to help replicate these models in the future so we can continue to spur job creation and grow our manufacturing capabilities.

And today, I am very pleased to announce a new initiative by our hosts, SME, in partnership with 3D Systems, to help prepare students to compete in the 21st century. The M.Lab21 initiative seeks to revolutionize the concept of high school shop classes. It connects manufacturers directly with schools and gives teachers the tools and resources needed to excite their students about a career in manufacturing. How does it work? SME and 3D Systems plan to put high-tech 3D printing tool kits along with inspiring curriculum and a robust on-line support community into schools across the country. They are focusing on over 200 schools in the SME PRIME network, but that is just the start. This week at the Big M Event, SME and 3D Systems are looking for partners, so I encourage you all to stop by the M.Lab21 booth over the next couple of days and ask how you can get involved.

On top of this effort, I hope you will commit to creating or expanding apprenticeship programs that link classroom education with hands-on experience.  As well, I encourage you and your peers to do more to develop and accept industry-recognized credentials and certificate programs. For America to compete in the 21st century, it is all of our responsibility to ensure we have an educated, flexible, and dynamic workforce.

I want to close with a final request of you. We need your help to update the image of manufacturing. Today, too many parents, teachers, and guidance counselors still do not understand that 21st-century advanced manufacturing is different from the manufacturing of 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Too many young people still do not understand that a career in manufacturing can be a challenging, rewarding, and noble way to earn a good living. We must all do our part to change and challenge those perceptions.

Yesterday, the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership announced a plan to meet that task through a national manufacturing image campaign.         As part of that effort, I want to ask each of you to open your doors on October 4th as part of Manufacturing Day to a class, or a grade, or a school. The objective is to get as many young people, teachers, guidance counselors, and parents through the doors of our American manufacturers as possible so they can see for themselves what a career in manufacturing holds.

Why are all of the efforts I have outlined so important? Why must we embrace a comprehensive approach to ensuring a bright future for Made in America? The answer is simple: The renaissance in American manufacturing is underway, and we simply must do all we can to maximize and accelerate the trend – to ensure America’s long-term prosperity.

We have a window of opportunity – right now – to build on the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs you have added in recent years. We have a window of opportunity – right now – to prove to the world that the 21st century will be another “Made-in-America” century. We have a window of opportunity – right now – to help more American families benefit from good-paying manufacturing jobs that help ensure their economic security – and our nation’s global economic leadership.

To take advantage of this moment, we all need to work together—government, businesses, universities, training institutions, local leaders, and most importantly, all of us in the room – to maintain America’s global competitiveness. Thank you.