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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at NNMI Day on the Hill

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker addressed the need for passage of pending bipartisan legislation that would establish a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) at the NNMI Day on Capitol Hill. She was joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown, Reps. Joe Kennedy and Tom Reed, several business leaders and the directors of the newly established pilot Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation (IMIs).

The Revitalize American Manufacturing Innovation Act (RAMI) would create a network of up to 15 regional institutes across the country, each focused on a unique technology, material or process relevant to advanced manufacturing. Senator Brown (D-OH), Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), Rep. Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Reed (R-NY) introduced bipartisan RAMI legislation in their respective legislative chamber. The Senate bill passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee, and the House bill passed the full House of Representatives on September 15.
Remarks As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Senator Brown, for your welcoming remarks and for your passionate, persistent leadership on behalf of working families and manufacturers in Ohio and across the country. I also want to applaud you for recognizing the importance of investing in cutting edge technologies needed to create more economic opportunity for all Americans.
I also want to acknowledge Senator Roy Blunt, who could not join us this morning; Chairman Jay Rockefeller, who helped make today’s event possible; and, Representatives Joe Kennedy and Tom Reed, who have led this effort in the House of Representatives. I am excited that Members from both chambers, and from both parties, understand the fundamental importance of pre-competitive research to our nation’s long-term economic growth and prosperity.
Since the nation’s founding, innovation has been the lifeblood of the American economy. And it is just as true today. In fact, between one-third and one-half of economic growth in the United States can be attributed technological and scientific innovation.
The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act recognizes this fact and is a critical step forward to securing America’s economic leadership. It is also fundamental to supporting the growth of manufacturing in the United States.
NNMI is about keeping America on the cutting edge of discovery – and keeping our manufacturers, our businesses, and our economy globally competitive. Leadership in manufacturing is not simply a “nice to have” – it is a “must have.”
The fact is that our international competitors are making substantial investments to spur innovation in advanced manufacturing.
For instance, Germany has more than 60 Fraunhofer institutes with the purpose of ensuring their global competitiveness in manufacturing. We have four. The reality is that if we underinvest in our future, we will be left behind. 
NNMI is designed to help America not just keep up, but to lead. To position American companies ahead of the global competition; to boost local, regional, and state economies; to accelerate the development of cutting-edge technologies in our own communities; and to create new growth industries, made in America.
That is why President Obama has made NNMI a national priority. And that is why the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy came forward with investments of our own to get the first pilot programs off the ground. 
What we have seen since the launch of the first NNMI institute in 2012 is that the federal government can serve as a necessary catalyst for success. These centers of excellence would not have occurred without that support. Our overall NNMI effort – and the RAMI Act – recognize the unique role the federal government plays in spearheading the effort to create these institutes.
The legislation also encourages partnership, regional collaboration and the breaking down of silos within our communities, community colleges and universities, the private sector, NGOs and needed supply chains in order to bring ideas from the lab to market. The legislation also recognizes that the current pilot institutes – and future pilot institutes – can create a powerful national network that can drive invention, best practices, and long-term economic growth.
From the start, communities were clamoring for NNMI resources. Make no mistake, these investments are not handouts. Each commitment of federal dollars requires that local partners match. And with federal funds brought to the table, we are seeing results.
After fierce competition, the first pilot institute in Youngstown, Ohio, focused on 3D printing and opened with an initial federal investment of $50 million. It is called America Makes and this regional partnership – through the private sector, NGOs and academic institutions – more than matched that amount. The initial consortium has now grown to more than 100 members who work together to help expand our nation’s capabilities in commercial 3D printing.
With the success in Youngstown, applications for our next institute came pouring in from across America. This past January, a group of 25 partners led by North Carolina State University was designated as the second pilot with a matching federal investment of $70 million. This institute will be focused on designing and producing the next generation of energy-efficient power electronics.
Few of our institutes met with more interest and competition than the consortium from Chicago, focused on digital manufacturing and design. Again, the federal government dedicated $70 million in funding. This time, the winning team more than tripled the federal commitment, putting up $240 million of their own. What is also terrific about this effort is that it is not just about the city of Chicago alone, but includes the participation of universities and companies from throughout the greater Midwest region. 
Finally, in February, the fourth pilot institute was announced in the Detroit area, with another $70 million matched by non-federal partners. The Detroit-based team is focused on lightweight metals, for use in everything from wind turbines to medical devices to combat vehicles.
I believe that the genius of this entire effort – and this legislation – is to encourage more dynamic collaboration.
Right now, there are four more pilot institutes in the pipeline – focused on the energy and defense sectors. And with the RAMI Act, we hope to be able to meet the real and growing demand for the development of more advanced manufacturing technologies.     
Since the opening of the NNMI pilot institutes, the evidence is clear of the tangible results coming from their research and development. That is why the RAMI Act is so critical. This measure will ensure that NNMI remains a catalyst for manufacturing and regional economic growth; serve as a source of support for industries of innovation; and function as a necessary vehicle to keep our workers, our companies, and our economy more competitive in the global landscape.
Today’s event is a perfect opportunity to learn more about the work of our pilot institutes; to hear from companies taking the lead in advanced manufacturing; and to discover more about how NNMI can produce tangible benefits for our communities.
These institutes present a clear reminder that making this bill the law of the land would spur more innovation, continue the comeback of American manufacturers, and send an unmistakable message to our competitors around the world – that America is “open for business.”
Thank you. And now, it is my honor to welcome one of the key leaders of this important legislative effort, Congressman Tom Reed.