Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing based on new technologies, is a sector of vital importance to America’s economic viability—both to businesses and the people they employ. A recent study  conducted by the Department of Commerce bears this out: Manufacturing is responsible for 70 percent of our private-sector research and development (R&D), 90 percent of our patents, and 60 percent of our exports. And the benefits accrue to manufacturing workers, since they earn pay and benefits that are about 17 percent higher than average.
That is why the $26 million Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge , supported by 14 Federal agencies and announced today by the Obama administration, is so important.
The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator is a competition to help grow industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic development opportunities; enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs; develop a skilled advanced manufacturing workforce; encourage the development of small businesses; and accelerate technological innovation.
At the Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) are leveraging resources, along with the Departments of Energy and Labor, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the National Science Foundation, to support public-private partnerships to spur economic and job growth in manufacturing clusters. Approximately 12 projects are expected to be chosen. This is the third in a series of multiagency Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenges since 2011.
Winners of the 2011 challenge, which was funded by EDA, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, and the SBA, have already begun to foster business growth and create jobs. For example, in the Greater Kansas City area, eight regional organizations joined together to form the Kansas City Jobs Accelerator. This organization is helping the advanced manufacturing and information technology cluster in the bi-state region by identifying game-changing technologies and processes and putting them in the hands of small businesses and talented entrepreneurs. Their tactics include coordinating research resources, helping prepare workers for careers in advanced manufacturing, and creating a clearinghouse for regional cluster and commercialization information.
In Rochester, New York, a 2011 Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grant to Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies  is helping this organization partner with regional organizations to support a successful, robust food processing cluster in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. They are doing so by helping companies with such practical matters as providing technical assistance on production processes and testing, and aiding in the development of a skilled workforce that is needed to support this growing industry cluster.
This initiative is a key component of President Obama’s plan to ensure we build products here and sell them everywhere. The White House launched the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters (TARIC) a few years ago to accelerate cluster growth, particularly in manufacturing.
After decades of losing manufacturing jobs, the manufacturing sector has grown strongly and been adding jobs for over two years. In the past 25 months manufacturing has added nearly a half million new jobs and 120,000 of those came in the first three months of this year.
This is good news, but it doesn’t mean that we can afford to sit back. In June 2011, President Obama announced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership  and, this year, a $45 million pilot program  aimed at promoting collaboration between government and industry in order to encourage innovation in manufacturing.
This Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator supports U.S. manufacturers—by helping to provide them with the infrastructure and trained workforce they need to grow and compete in the world economy.