The U.S. manufacturing sector received a $20 million injection of funds in October to spur growth and innovation at the local level. The funding was given to ten public-private partnerships around the country through the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a competitive grant process supported by a number of federal agencies. The projects are undertaken by “clusters” of local stakeholders including small and large businesses, colleges, and nonprofits. These clusters support local manufacturing and job creation by integrating small producers into larger value chains, helping new companies to utilize new research, giving workers necessary skills to help firms seize business opportunities.
The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge was announced in May 2012 as a partnership of six agencies: the Economic Development Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the National Science Foundation. An additional eight federal agencies provide technical assistance to the program.
This support of advanced manufacturing comes as the third round of the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge. Initiated in 2011 by the Obama Administration, the Challenge has provided over $200 million to promote regional innovation clusters through an interagency Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters. This Challenge has helped the economy to add almost 500,000 manufacturing jobs since February 2010.
The ten projects are based in Arizona, California, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington. Each receives from $1.8 to $2.4 million and will directly train 1,000 workers and support 650 companies, according to Commerce’s press release. However, the local impacts of the federal grants will multiply through state and local initiatives. For example, the grant to the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster will be supplemented by $200,000 from the New York government and $700,000 from the partnership organizations. Likewise, the Southeast Michigan project to support an advanced contract manufacturing cluster will receive $500,000 from the Michigan government. In Arizona, indirect impacts are likely in light of the fact that its Aerospace and Defense Region “comprises some 1,200 companies and 55,000 jobs, accounting for about 6 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.”
Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank states that “[a] strong manufacturing base in America is critical to the health of the U.S. economy, and these awards further demonstrate the Obama administration’s commitment to keeping this country on the cutting edge of innovation in manufacturing.”