WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama made official today that $70 million in federal money will be heading to Chicago to help create a manufacturing innovation hub.
Speaking from the White House, Obama lauded the newest hubs that are being created in Chicago and in the Detroit area.
“If we stay focused on winning this race,” he remarked, “we will make sure the next revolution in manufacturing is an American revolution.”
Already there are hubs in Youngstown, Ohio, and Raleigh, N.C. Four more hubs are in the pipeline, the president said. He was surrounded by high-technology equipment including a refrigerator-sized, 3-D printer and other innovations.
Several Illinois lawmakers, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and members of Congress, were in the audience, along with state and University of Illinois officials.
White House adviser Valerie Jarrett also was on hand.
The Illinois project is formally the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, which will be funded with an additional $250 million in state and private-sector money.
Obama, noting the Chicago hub will go up on Goose Island, couldn’t resist a quip. He said Goose Island was “also a very superior beer — just lettin’ you know.”
Two Chicago students studying at specialty STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools came to Washington with the mayor.
The students, Darvon Smith, 16, and Hannah Marie Harris, 16, both got hand-written note cards, containing the presidential seal, with a message from Obama, forgiving them for skipping school.
The girl’s note said: “Please excuse Hannah for her absence -- she was with me! -- Barack Obama”
The backdrop for the president’s announcement said: “Opportunity for All: 21st Century Manufacturing Jobs.”
The U.S. lost one-third of its manufacturing jobs during the 2000s alone, Obama said, and the middle-class suffered for it.
During the last four years, U.S. manufacturers have added more than 620,000 jobs, he said. To attract more manufacturing jobs, “we’ve got to make sure we’re on the cutting edge of new manufacturing techniques and technologies,” Obama said.
He said he was excited about the four hubs, but noted Germany has 60 of them.
“I don't want the next big job-creating discovery to come from Germany or China or Japan,” he said. “I want it to be made here in America.”
“And this is critical: The country that gets new products to market faster and at less cost, they’ll win the race for the good jobs of tomorrow,” he said. “And if you look at what’s happening in manufacturing, a lot of it is much more specific. Companies want to keep their inventories low. They want to respond to consumer demand faster. And what that means is, is that manufacturers who can adapt, retool, get something out, change for a particular spec of a particular customer, they’re going to win the competition every time.”
He said the U.S. wants “suppliers to be able to collaborate with customers in real-time, test their parts digitally, cut down on the time and money that they spend producing expensive prototypes. We want our manufacturers to be able to custom-design products tailored to each individual consumer. We want our troops to be able to download digital blueprints they can use to 3-D print new parts and repair equipment right there in the field.”
He said while the goals were ambitious, “this is America—that’s what we do, we’re ambitious.” Obama, paraphrasing a quote often attributed to Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, added: “We don’t make small plans.”
The president addressed hundreds of people, many of them Illinoisans, who packed the East Room. He entered the room to applause and a standing ovation.
Scott Miller, the interim executive director of the Illinois Manufacturing Lab, (CQ) part of UI Labs, was in the audience and called the new hub coming to the state “huge.”
“This is huge, not just for Illinois but for the country,” Miller said. “It’s going to transform how we design and manufacture products.”
Gov. Quinn announced the Illinois Manufacturing Lab in December. It is working on 10 pilot projects with companies including Chicago-based Gold Eagle, Miller said.