Brown proposes NNMI program

Building on the success of a next generation manufacturing center in Youngs-town created under a plan unveiled by President Obama last March, Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is crafting legislation to expand the program throughout the United States.

The legislation would create more innovative centers, which are designed to bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies and U.S., state and local governments to accelerate manufacturing innovation.

“Our workers are the most productive and now we need to make them the most innovative — that is why I am calling for the creation of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation,” Brown said Tuesday during a media teleconference from Washington, D.C. “Every region, every state has a role to play to maintain our innovative edge. I’ve worked with small business and industry leaders as well as university and research institutions on legislation to create the National Network.

“The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation will establish the U.S. as a leader in next generation technology,” the U.S. senator from Ohio said. “It will capitalize on our investment in basic research and create the thousands of high-paying jobs, high-tech manufacturing jobs that our part of the country and the whole country needs. It will provide small business access to the tools and expertise to compete in the global economy.”

He explained the legislation would create public-private institutes that could leverage investments to bridge the gap between basic research and product development as well as create an environment to educate and to train students and workers in new and high-tech manufacturing skills.

Each Institute would serve as a regional hub of manufacturing excellence, providing the innovation infrastructure to support regional manufacturing and would help ensure that U.S. manufacturing sector is a key pillar in an economy that is built to last, Brown said. This model has been successfully deployed in other countries and would address a gap in the U.S. manufacturing innovation infrastructure.

Government agencies likely to help would be the departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the National Science Foundation.

Brown’s initiative would build on a $1 billion proposal by Obama for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation to create 15 manufacturing innovation institutes around the country.

The program would be started with $30 million of federal funding matched by $40 million in private funding.

The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee, whose membership includes leading manufacturing experts from industry and academia, called for the “establishment of a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes to bridge the gap between basic research performed in universities and national laboratories, and our production enterprises, particularly small and medium enterprises.”

To jumpstart this effort, Obama announced in March a federal investment to establish a National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, using existing authorities in five federal agencies.

During Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, he again proposed the $1 billion plan, but if Congress opposes the initiative, Obama said he would use his presidential powers to create three institutes on his own.

In August, Brown joined White House administration officials to announce funding the new manufacturing institute in Youngstown, known as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) to create a Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh TechBelt to receive the competitively-awarded grant.

During Tuesday’s call, Brown was joined by his guest for the State of the Union speech,  Gwendolyn (Cookie) Hall, who began working at Republic Steel at the age of 19 as a second generation steelworker. The Cleveland Works steel mill where she began is now owned by global giant ArcelorMittal NA.

“American workers, like Ms. Hall, are already the most productive in the world,” Brown said. “It’s time we build on these gains to ensure that our manufacturers are also the most innovative in the world. 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.”