Manufacturing innovation will move the U.S. economy forward, says President Obama

February 13, 2013
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President Obama used his annual State of the Union speech to highlight the gains made by the U.S manufacturing industry, while calling on Congress to approve plans for 15 innovation centers that will be “a magnet for new jobs.”

According to the BBC, the president took the opportunity to remind the nation of the debt it owes to U.S. manufacturing, citing the decisions of Apple, Ford, General Electric and Caterpillar to bring production back to America as a sign that the economic recovery was well under way. Addressing a capacity crowd in the House of Representatives, Obama promised that there would be more federal investment in manufacturing which he believed would “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth.”

“Thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report,” he said. “After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20.”

Scattered throughout the 60-minute speech were a number of proposed projects that would continue to clear away the “rubble of crisis.” These included the aforementioned manufacturing innovation centers that, according to Manufacturing.net, were at the core of his plans to make the U.S. the number one destination for manufactured products, thanks in part to an adherence to lean enterprise.

The president has already made research and development a priority, approving a one billion dollar addition to the fiscal year 2013 budget intended for the innovation centers. However, the federal government has not, as of yet, identified where these institutes will be located, despite the creation of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), which has been called a “pre-competitive R&D service” by some industry leaders.

“The whole notion is that you can get better R&D efficiency, and basically spur the rate of innovation, if you collectively work together on these things,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “You compete against other manufacturers around the world, and you cooperate here with these kinds of services.”

According to Reuters, Obama’s speech was greeted cautiously by industry analysts and investors, although some expressed concern that the nationwide implementation of NNMI could take attention away from the so-called talent gap and the steady resurgence of overseas markets.

“Our nation needs to do more exporting,” said Steve Westly, a California venture capitalist. “We need to do a better job of retraining Americans to get those jobs … I think most people get that.”