[author: Lauren Donoghue]
On April 9, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act of 2013, which aims to grow U.S. manufacturing by strengthening the collaboration between government, educational entities, and industry. The bill, S. 1468, was introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) in August of 2013. It has bipartisan support with its fifteen cosponsors split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
A companion bill in the House of Representatives was introduced by Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Joe Kennedy (D-MA). The House bill, H.R. 2996, has more than seventy bipartisan cosponsors, but it has yet to be marked-up by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
RAMI seeks to boost U.S. manufacturing by creating a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), a network of fifteen public-private innovation hubs focused on solving common manufacturing problems. Each network would focus on a specific manufacturing process, technology, or method. The goal of the program is to improve the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers, stimulate U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing, and accelerate the development of an advanced manufacturing workforce. Bill sponsors say that it will increase domestic production while providing the next generation with the high-tech skills needed to fill jobs. NNMI would be funded by a one-time $600 million investment from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Institutes would be chosen for participation based on a merit-based review process.
President Obama supports the idea of a public-private manufacturing network and has included funding for the proposal in both his 2013 and 2014 budget proposals. Pilot projects based in Youngstown, Ohio, and Raleigh, North Carolina are already off and running. And the President announced a plan to launch six more pilots projects in his State of the Union address earlier this year. President Obama has urged Congress to "get these bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work."
RAMI has rare broad support from industry, trade associations, labor organizations, and universities. Supporters include the National Association of Manufacturers, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, ASME, GE, Boeing, and U.S. Steel. In a letter to Members of the Senate, the AFL-CIO urged support of the bill, saying that it would "send a strong signal that the U.S. has recommitted to being on the cutting edge of technological research, development, and manufacturing." A Business Roundtable letter states that the legislation "is good for business, good for our public institutions and most importantly, it is good for the American workers."
The legislation awaits committee consideration in the House and a vote by the full Senate. If passed by both chambers, a joint House-Senate conference committee would have to rectify any differences between the bills before it could be sent to the President and signed into law."