Machinists Welcome Obama Manufacturing Proposal

March 12, 2012
President calls for manufacturing institutes to spur innovation.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) said it is "squarely behind" President Obama's plan to fund the creation of a nationwide network of up to 15 high-tech manufacturing institutes.

"With phone calls, letters and personal visits, our members will urge lawmakers in every state to support the president's plan to create these institutes without delay," said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. "We expect to be working closely with our allies in the business community, who understand that high-tech jobs will require workers with high-tech skills."

Last Friday, Obama announced his plan for a $1 billion National Network for Manufacturing Innnovation. Speaking at the Rolls Royce Crosspointe jet engine facility in Petersburg, Va., Obama outlined a plan for the institutes that would bring together private industry, universities, community colleges and government in order to spur innovation and help smaller manufacturers "take part in this new renaissance of American inventiveness."

The White House said these institutes would invest in "industrially-relevant manufacturing technologies with broad applications to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, provide shared assets to help companies -- particularly small manufacturers -- access cutting-edge capabilities and equipment, and create an unparalleled environment to educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills."

The president announced a $45 million pilot program to demonstrate the value of the new institutes. The pilot facility will be selected through a competition and will use existing funding from the departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce and the National Science Foundation.

The White House said the institutes will support regional manufacturing hubs and fill a "gap in the U.S. manufacturing innovation infrastructure...."

The White House said the manufacturing institutes could help with opportunities such as:

  • "Developing lightweight materials, such as low-cost carbon fiber composites (CFC's), that will improve fuel efficiency, performance, and corrosion resistance of the next generation of automobiles, aircraft, ships and trains.
  • "Refining standards, materials, and equipment for "3-D printing"(also known as additive manufacturing) to enable low-cost, small batch production using digital designs that can be transmitted from designers located anywhere.
  • "Creating a smart manufacturing infrastructure and approaches that lets operators make real-time use of "big data" flows from fully-instrumented plants in order to improve productivity, optimize supply chains, and improve energy, water, and materials use."

"It's not too late to overcome the past underinvestment in skills training that threatens future growth in the manufacturing sector," said IAM's Buffenbarger. "The president's plan will give U.S. workers a chance to be part of the manufacturing renaissance we're all determined to create."

The National Association of Manufacturers, in its Shopfloor blog, said it was "pleased that the president is speaking of bringing about a boom-time for manufacturers in the U.S.," but added that "what we'd really like to see is the adoption of our Manufacturing Renaissance agenda...." The NAM agenda includes calls for reducing the corporate tax rate, regulatory reform, updating the U.S.'s export control system and other measures.

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