U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Opening Remarks at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago


Monday, September 12, 2016

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered the keynote address at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago. The IMTS is the premier manufacturing technology show in North America, featuring more than 2,000 exhibiting companies on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology and innovation.

During the show’s opening ceremony, Secretary Pritzker announced the rebranding of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) as Manufacturing USA. With its new brand, Manufacturing USA is poised to build on the successes of NNMI to further the geographic reach of a network that spans our country and is positioned to benefit companies of all sizes from coast to coast.

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker highlighted the critical role manufacturing plays in our country’s economic resurgence and how our people, business climate, and ingenuity are the key to this industry’s long-term growth. Secretary Pritzker encouraged IMTS attendees to participate in this year’s Manufacturing Day, a Department of Commerce initiative which inspires our country’s youth to explore exciting careers in manufacturing. Manufacturing Day events will be held at over 3,000 locations across the country on October 7, 2016.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Rick, for the kind introduction. It is always wonderful to be home in Chicago. Growing up in a family that made everything from railroad tank cars to medical equipment, I was raised with a deep appreciation of the American manufacturing tradition.

Today, as Secretary of Commerce, I have the opportunity to not only see firsthand the modern reality of our industrial base but to partner with manufacturers across the country to strengthen this critical sector of our economy.

Whether on the factory floor at SpaceX outside Los Angeles, where I talked to workers who are building spacecraft that may one day take us to Mars about how we can keep our manufacturers on the cutting edge, or at ArcelorMittal in Cleveland, where they manufacture steel and I saw how the Commerce Department’s enforcement of trade laws can protect an industry that forms the foundation of everything from our cars to the bridges they drive on, or at a high school in Dalton, Georgia, where I met a young apprentice who is learning to create the carpets of the future thanks, in part, to our Department’s commitment to expanding training focused on leading sectors in each region.

Over the past three years a Secretary, I have seen firsthand the strength and resilience of American manufacturing. And I have seen how your ability as manufacturers to innovate, to make, and to sell to the world was critical to digging ourselves out of the recession.

Eight years ago, no one could have predicted the resurgence of manufacturing that we see today. After a half century of steady growth, it took just nine years for the industry to collapse. Our manufacturing sector lost approximately one-third of its workforce. Sixty-thousand factories closed their doors, sending our country into crisis. Many people began to doubt that U.S. manufacturing would ever begin growing again. But today, even in the face of global headwinds, there are 828,000 more American jobs in manufacturing than six years ago, and companies are looking to fill over 350,000 jobs.

After a steep drop in the first decade of the millennium, the number of factories has started to increase again. For four years in a row, CEOs from around the world have named the United States the best place to make and invest, and we have seen new capital investment in a broad range of manufacturing sectors.

To be clear, as many of you in this room know, the last two years have not been easy for many manufacturers. Weaker overseas demand, a stronger dollar, and sharply lower commodity prices – all have caused new orders, production, and employment to stall, and companies to draw down inventory. But it is important to distinguish between the short-term trends and the long-term fundamental strength of U.S. manufacturing.

In my view – as someone who spent 27 years in the private sector – there are three key reasons why “Made in America” remains the best brand in the world: our people, our business climate, and our capacity to innovate.

Today, I want to talk about how we can strengthen these three assets and, in turn, continue to grow U.S. manufacturing.

First and foremost, our people and our workers are America’s most precious resource. They are the engine that powers the manufacturing machine. If our country is to out-compete and continue to lead the rest of the world, we must prepare our workforce for the jobs of the 21st century.

Under President Obama’s leadership, our Administration has invested heavily in preparing our children and our workers for the high-tech, high wage jobs of tomorrow. We are making college more affordable, job training more available, and funding for workforce development more sensible.

At the Department of Commerce, we have made job-driven training a priority for the very first time. Through our “Skills for Business” agenda, we bring employers to the table to define precisely what they are looking for in prospective employees. We partner with employers to implement effective training models, like apprenticeship programs. And we work with educators and trainers to ensure they provide in-demand skills. But to continue leading in the global economy, we must never stop improving our workforce development efforts. For example, we know that it is not enough to simply arm America’s workforce with the skills to compete.

We must also engage the next generation of workers and excite our youth about the potential of a career in manufacturing. Among young people today, manufacturing still ranks last as an industry career choice. We must change the perception of manufacturers as outdated factories filled with line jobs. And that is why we at the Department of Commerce created Manufacturing Day.

Last year’s Manufacturing Day saw over 400,000 people participate in more than 2,400 open houses, tours, career workshops, and other events across the country. This year, on October 7, we want to do even better.

I ask you to consider hosting an event. Invite a class from your local school and their career advisors to tour your plant, so they can experience the exciting work and career opportunities that exist in 21st century manufacturing. You can find more information at www.MFGday.com.      

Our country’s prosperity starts and ends with our people. But our business climate is another huge factor why foreign companies choose to invest in the United States and why American companies are bringing their production home.

Consider all that our country has to offer a strong rule of law and intellectual property protections, predictable regulations and consistent judicial system, cheap and abundant sources of energy, and low tariff rates and supportive local governments that make it easy to do business in their communities.

It is no surprise that the World Bank named the United States one of the easiest places in the entire world to do business. But even with our success, this Administration is laser-focused on continually improving the business climate across our nation. For example, while the United States already offers significant market access through free trade agreements with 20 countries, we know that is not sufficient.

Our entire Administration is committed to enacting new trade agreements like the high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will open doors to the Asia-Pacific market, the fastest growing region in the world.

Let me be frank: I know that globalization – coupled with advances in technology – is disrupting our communities, our workers, and our businesses. Many understandably are feeling left behind. But the existence of these forces does not mean we should turn our back on trade or new trade pacts especially high-standard agreements like TPP.

In the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we have negotiated an agreement that levels the playing field for our workers and our manufacturers, protects the environment, and ensures other countries abide by our tough labor rules. Our challenge now is to generate the political will needed to pass TPP before the end of the year. If you believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership will create more customers for your business and more growth for our economy, I ask you to be vocal about your support. Because we cannot call ourselves a pro-growth nation while denying American workers and businesses the opportunity to compete and win throughout our modern, globalized economy.

For the United States to remain a step ahead of the competition and thrive, now and into the future, market access alone is not enough. We also need a cutting edge manufacturing sector. Recognizing that American competiveness is at stake, President Obama created the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

The advanced manufacturing institutes in this network break down silos between the U.S. private sector and academia to collaborate on taking industry-relevant technologies from lab to market in the next 5 to 7 years. In just four years, the network has grown to over 1,300 members and is working on 240 technology development projects.

Today, the network’s members include nearly two-thirds of Fortune 50 U.S. manufacturers and 8 out of the 10 top-ranked research and engineering universities. And more than a third of member companies are small and medium-sized enterprises.

If you are not already a member, regardless of your size, I encourage you to connect with my team and learn more about how your company can benefit from joining one of these advanced manufacturing institutes.

The Department of Commerce runs the network that today consists of nine institutes and will grow to at least 14 by the end of the year. Through this network, we enable the sharing of best practices to develop new technologies, manage a supply chain, introduce new products to market, and attract and retain the talented workforce needed to support 21st century manufacturing. Our Department also has the sole authority to establish new institutes in technology areas selected by industry – not by government. We plan to announce the first Commerce Department-sponsored advanced manufacturing institute early next year.

As new market technologies continue to emerge from these institutes and industry identifies new areas for growth, we need to ensure that Congress provides adequate funding to make our current institutes sustainable and ensure these hubs keep American manufacturing ahead of the competition. To see the value of this network, look no further than the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute here in Chicago, where researchers are developing an augmented reality-based training system for workers. If you have ever tried Pokemon Go, it’s a lot like that – except instead of catching monsters, you point your camera at a piece of machinery, and the screen shows you exactly how to operate it.

Five-hundred miles south of here in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, they are not only attracting new companies like Orion Composites and Local Motors to the region but inventing new materials that make the impossible possible. For example, they partnered with the Oak Ridge Laboratory to develop a 3D-printed home that uses its own energy supply to power a 3D-printed car – and you can see both this week in the Emerging Technology Center. With the incredible success of this initiative, let’s be honest: it deserves better branding. I don’t know about you, but as far as acronyms go, NNMI is not the catchiest.

Today, I am thrilled to announce Manufacturing USA. With our new name, Manufacturing USA captures the geographic reach of a network that spans our country and is positioned to benefit companies of all sizes from coast to coast. But more importantly, this name embodies our vision for a unified American manufacturing sector – where the brightest minds and the most innovative companies come together to develop the most cutting-edge technology in the world.

Ultimately, our work to make Manufacturing USA successful is about ensuring “Made in America” is not just one of the world’s best brands but the hallmark of an innovative, constantly evolving industry that builds lasting careers and stronger communities.

From Samuel Slater’s textile mill to Henry Ford’s Model T to today’s 3D printers, we are a country that innovates. A country that makes. A country that sells to the world. By working together to out-collaborate, out-innovate, and out-compete the rest of the globe, I am confident that America’s manufacturers – each of you in this room – will continue to spur and sustain our dynamic, growing economy for years to come. Thank you.

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