Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Chicago, Illinois to deliver remarks  at the International Manufacturing Technology Show  (IMTS), hosted by the Association for Manufacturing Technology. Acting Secretary Blank discussed the importance of manufacturing to boosting U.S. economic growth, job creation and exports and highlighted the administration's continuing efforts to build things here and sell them everywhere.
Blank noted that President Obama has been committed to U.S. manufacturing since his very first day in office, and shared three key facts that show manufacturing is making a comeback. First, after a decade when America lost six million manufacturing jobs, we’ve now added more than a half million back since January 2010. These are good-paying jobs that strengthen economic security for the middle class. Second, our manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009–with big growth in areas like cars and car parts. Third, manufactured exports have increased in nearly all industry categories, jumping over 36 percent from 2009 to 2011.
After finishing her remarks, Blank toured the floor exhibits. She stopped by the Local Motors  exhibition to hear about their crowd-sourced car. The Defense Advance Research Project Agency  challenged Local Motors, a small company based in Chandler, Arizona to design a vehicle in four weeks and build it in three months. To meet this deadline Local Motors crowd-sourced the vehicle design, selected one of the over 162 high-quality designs that came in and then built it ahead of schedule.
Acting Secretary Blank departed IMTS and traveled to Cree-Racine  in Racine, Wisconsin, a local manufacturer of energy-efficient LED lights. They recently formed a partnership with a distributor in India and last year won the President’s E-Award  for their success in increasing exports. Because of that success, they’re expanding their facility and creating nearly 500 more jobs in Wisconsin.
Acting Secretary Blank then traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she spoke with local business leaders about steps that can be taken to grow the American economy  and create jobs. Her remarks focused on the importance of increasing consumer spending, spurring innovation in manufacturing, increasing business investments in the U.S., and growing U.S. exports. She drew attention to a joint venture between five federal agencies, the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, and local manufacturers for a pilot project that is focused on additive manufacturing .
Additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing, is a new way of making products and components from a digital model, and will have implications in a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, and metals manufacturing. Like an office printer that puts 2D digital files on a piece of paper, a 3D printer creates components by depositing thin layers of material one after another using a digital blueprint until the exact component required has been created. The Department of Defense envisions customizing parts on site for operational systems that would otherwise be expensive to make or ship. The Department of Energy anticipates that additive processes would be able to save more than 50 percent energy use compared to today’s "subtractive" manufacturing processes.
This pilot institute will set a research agenda, driven by private sector needs. It will encourage researchers and entrepreneurs to take risks, test prototypes, fail quickly and get back up to try again. This is a great public-private partnership, with funding from the Federal government, two states and many manufacturers. The Department is tracking this pilot closely, to learn how best to help fund and establish these sort of public-private collaborations all over the country.
In addition to highlighting manufacturing, Blank outlined steps needed to grow the American economy and create jobs. She focused on the importance of increasing consumer spending, increasing business investments in the U.S., and growing U.S. exports. She also highlighted the need for U.S. investments in infrastructure and education to build an economy to last.