In advance of today's State of the Union address, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call to preview the address and to call for the creation of a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Working with industry, labor, and his Senate colleagues, Brown is drafting legislation that would help establish more next generation manufacturing centers like the first-of-its-kind National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown. The President has previously expressed support for a NNMI in his Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal.
"American workers have the drive, the creative thinking, and the determination to out-innovate the rest of the world," Brown continued. "We just need to make certain that they have the opportunity to do so."
Brown's legislation is designed to bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies -- such as the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the National Science Foundation -- and U.S. state and local governments to accelerate manufacturing innovation.
Specifically, the legislation would establish public-private Institutes that leverage investments to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, provide shared assets to help companies--particularly small and medium-size manufacturing enterprises--access cutting-edge capabilities and equipment, and create an environment to educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills.
Each Institute will serve as a regional hub of manufacturing excellence, providing the innovation infrastructure to support regional manufacturing and ensuring that our manufacturing sector is a key pillar in an economy that is built to last. This model has been successfully deployed in other countries and would address a gap in the U.S. manufacturing innovation infrastructure.
The first pilot of the National Network for Manufacturing Institutes is located in Youngstown. In August 2012, Brown joined White House officials to announce funding to establish a new, first-of-its-kind manufacturing institute in Youngstown, known as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII). In June 2012, Brown led a Congressional letter of support for the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh TechBelt to receive the competitively-awarded grant.
Brown was joined on today's call by his guest to the State of the Union, Gwendolyn (Cookie) Hall. Ms. Hall, 59, is a Cleveland native, and mother of two adult children. After getting a degree at Cuyahoga Community College at age 19, she began work at Republic Steel as a second generation steelworker. The Cleveland Works steel mill where she began is now owned by global giant ArcelorMittal NA. Cookie has held many different jobs at the Cleveland Works, currently handling training schedules for a union production workforce of more than 1,500.
Ms. Hall works at the most productive, integrated steel facility in the world. Brown's call for a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation is aimed at building on the productivity gains made by American workers by ensuring that American companies and workers can also out-innovate the rest of the world.
"American workers, like Ms. Hall, are already the most productive in the world. It's time we build on these gains to ensure that our manufacturers are also the most innovative in the world," Brown said. "Manufacturing is the key to our economic recovery and to good-paying middle-class jobs. By establishing a National network of Manufactuirng Innovation, we can provide small businesses with access to the tools and expertise needed to compete in the global economy. We're already seeing the success with Youngstown's pilot program, and that's why I've been working with small businesses, industry leaders, universities, and research institutions on legislation to create a NNMI."
Described as "Congress' leading proponent of American Manufacturing," Brown--a member of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus--has introduced a package of key legislative proposals aimed at bolstering the competiveness of U.S. manufacturers and boosting domestic manufacturing. Last year, legislation sponsored by Brown and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), the National Manufacturing Strategy Act of 2011, passed the House. This bipartisan legislation requires the Commerce Secretary to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the nation's manufacturing sector and submit to Congress a National Manufacturing Strategy (NMS). The goals of the NMS are to increase manufacturing jobs, identify emerging technologies to strengthen U.S. competitiveness, and strengthen the manufacturing sectors in which the U.S. is most competitive.