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The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 2/03/2016 Jerry Jasinowski

Obama's Manufacturing Legacy - by Jerry Jasinowski
In this unusually histrionic political season it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to say positive things about President Obama, especially to a mostly business oriented audience, but the POTUS deserves credit for his support of manufacturing.
It all began back in 2011 when the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology first recommended an initiative that became the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). I do not know the origin of this concept but based on my extensive experience in Washington, I am fairly certain Obama's team must have laid the groundwork for it. As a general rule, advisors do not surprise Presidents with recommendations.
Whatever the source, the NNMI came along at a propitious moment when U.S. manufacturing was under severe stress from foreign competition and a growing number of manufacturing companies were cutting back on research and development - an unfortunate trend that continues. The primary strength of manufacturing, and indeed our overall economy, has always been creativity and innovation.
Congress signed on in 2014, a rare example of bi-partisanship, with the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014 that provided a legal basis for the NNMI which today includes seven institutes around the country with more than 800 member organizations participating in nearly 150 R&D projects.
"With the support of more than 800 members - including blue chip companies, leading universities and numerous small businesses and non-profits - the institutes are undertaking applied research in support of solutions to industry-relevant problems, strengthening the skills of America's workforce, and securing U.S. leadership in emerging manufacturing technologies," said Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
The seven institutes are: America Makes - the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio, which focuses on 3D printing technology; the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago, which focuses on digital design; the Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Raleigh, N.C., focused on semi-conductor-based power electronics; Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow in Detroit, working on lightweight metals; the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, TN, working on advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites; The American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics in Rochester, NY, focused on integrated photonic circuit manufacturing; and America's Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute in San Jose, CA, working on semiconductors and flexible electronics.
Historically, our great economic advances - from the intercontinental railroad to the Internet - have been born of collaboration between business and government. In these challenging times, it is refreshing to know the Obama Administration has embraced that legacy and strengthened it. Those who support manufacturing should encourage the next administration to build on and expand NNMI.
Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. Jerry is available for speaking engagements. March 2016

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