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Mayors, National Leaders Launch Advanced Manufacturing Campaign

By Paul Leroux
January 28, 2013

The U.S. Conference of Mayors Advanced Manufacturing Task Force convened on January 18 during the Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington. Mayors from around the country discussed strategies to attract advanced manufacturing, which Task Force Chair Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx described as, “the rapid transfer of science and technology into manufacturing products and processes.” According to Foxx, this can include computer software, robotics, or highly processed chemicals.

Foxx noted the work Charlotte has done to attract advanced manufacturing. In particular, this has included partnerships with area colleges to expand both training and research and development. Foxx hailed partnerships like these as having “…jolted a struggling manufacturing sector.” “When companies see that Charlotte has the human and physical resources they need to compete, they look more seriously at our city,” he said.

Speaking during the Task Force meeting, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis offered a hopeful message for the future of advanced manufacturing. Solis suggested that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) training was essential. She emphasized the work that the Department of Labor was already doing with the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Community College and Career Training Grant Program as an example of this. Secretary Solis noted that while her tenure is coming to an end, work still continues on front and she plans to be a part of it. “While I may be leaving the administration,” she said, “I plan on doing what you do. Which is being an advocate.”

Dr. Rebecca Blank, the Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce, spoke after Solis on the importance of turning cities into “hubs for advanced manufacturing.” Blank highlighted the need for creativity on the local level, and noted that American cities can no longer simply expect foreign manufacturers to locate in the United States. She noted that Commerce’s SelectUSA program was working to overcome the barriers to locating in the United States and that the Make it in America Challenge was providing seed funding to encourage new production. She encouraged mayors to make use of both programs in their cities.

In order to continue leading in manufacturing, Blank said American cities must emphasize innovation and provide links to research and development. She said, “Keeping us at the front edge of innovation is going to give us what we need to attract manufacturing.” In this vein, Blank urged passage of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) Act, which Chris Slevin, Economic Policy Director for Senator Sherrod Brown, also presented. This act is designed to bring together state and local governments, industry, colleges, and federal agencies to accelerate manufacturing innovation.

Siemens Corporation President and CEO Eric Spiegel also visited the Task Force. He said that it was, “…great to see the renewed emphasis on cities and from mayors with this Task Force.” He called the competition for advanced manufacturing a “global game,” and said, “The productivity advantage is ours now, but it will slip away if we don’t address that issue.” In order to increase productivity, Spiegel urged mayors to invest in training technology'skilled workers in their cities and work to improve infrastructure in order to bring goods to markets, particularly exports.

Reporting back to a plenary breakfast the following day, Foxx applauded the engagement from mayors and other leaders. He urged action from all of the nation’s mayors, saying, “We can make our cities hospitable environments for advanced manufacturing through the right combination of policies and partnerships. We can also work with the federal government to create the needed tax, trade, talent, and tax climate all around the country.”