President Obama earmarks $530M for advanced manufacturing

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is directing $530 million to help the advanced manufacturing industry develop and test prototypes, hire apprentices and partner with academic experts.

The president announced the initiatives Monday during a meeting of his Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships Steering Committee, which guided his executive orders. United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard and Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, whose organizations have strong presences in Pittsburgh, were among the 19 steering committee members.

The president’s orders call for a $300 million investment in manufacturing equipment and materials and the establishment of a $100 million apprenticeship grant competition.

Meanwhile, $130 million, which has to be matched with non-federal dollars, will be distributed over 10 years to Manufacturing Extension Partnerships in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The aim is to help small manufacturers develop new technologies and bring new products to market.

Mr. Gerard said the goal is to expand those centers to more places across the country after the pilot programs prove their worth.

“There’s going to be a lot of competition [for the centers], but I think Pittsburgh would be a pretty cool place. It’s got business, laboratories, the financial community and academic all working together on a number of projects already,” he said.

Mr. Gerard said Monday’s executive orders were a sign that Mr. Obama understands the economic opportunities available by promoting partnerships in advanced manufacturing.

“This is the first president in 16 years to bring together people from business, government, academia and labor to talk about the future of manufacturing. That shows [the president] understands how important manufacturing is,” Mr. Gerard said Monday after the committee officially presented its recommendations.

The president “asked us which recommendations were the most important, and mine was clearly that we have to do more to increase domestic content” of infrastructure projects, Mr. Gerard said. Many bridge projects use inferior foreign steel, and so far the solution has been to send American experts overseas to train Chinese manufacturers in welding techniques, he said.

“That’s a place the president can use his bully pulpit, to talk about why we shouldn’t send our resources to China,” he said.

The issue is of particular importance to Pennsylvania, where more and more steel pipe is needed to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

“That kind of stuff could be made in Western Pennsylvania and reduce energy costs in Western Pennsylvania,” Mr. Gerard said.

Meanwhile Monday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said what manufacturers really need from the administration is a reduction in the number of costly and cumbersome regulations.

He used the opportunity to stump for Republican bills that would require agencies to choose the lowest-cost rule that meets statutory objectives and to require them to account for the costs of new regulations on small businesses. He also wants to require congressional approval for every major new rule.

Those bills have passed the House but are unlikely to move through the Senate as long as Democrats are able to retain enough seats in next week’s general election to retain control of the chamber.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing lauded the administration efforts.

“The president deserves a lot of praise for investing in innovative apprenticeship programs and other efforts to boost the next wave of manufacturing technologies and careers,” said its president, Scott Paul. “Manufacturing jobs are one of the surest paths to the middle class for a new generation of Americans. If we’re looking for solutions to address income inequality and the decline of the middle class, boosting manufacturing is one of the absolute best paths forward.”

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Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello:; 703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.

Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello:, 703-996-9229 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets. First Published October 27, 2014 6:32 AM

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