What to make of them?
President Obama is sitting down today at the White House with the steering committee of his Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP). The group just released a report on how to spur manufacturing activity in the United States, and the president has announced a bunch of executive orders based on the report’s findings.
Let’s take a look at what today’s executive actions will entail:
- Innovation: The departments of Defense, Energy, Agriculture, and NASA will invest more than $300 million in three technologies AMP identified as critical to U.S. competitiveness: advanced materials including composites and bio-based materials, advanced sensors for manufacturing, and digital manufacturing.
- Workforce Development: The Department of Labor will launch a $100 Million American Apprenticeships Grant Competition to spur new apprenticeship models and scale effective ones in high-growth fields like advanced manufacturing.
- Improving the Business Climate: The Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership will pilot a competition for $130 million over five years across 10 states to help small manufacturers adopt new technologies and bring new products to market.
In a statement, our own Scott Paul noted that Obama "deserves a lot of praise for investing in innovative apprenticeship programs and other efforts to boost the next wave of manufacturing technologies and careers," adding that if "we're looking for solutions to address income inequality and the decline of the middle class, boosting manufacturing is one of the absolute best paths forward."
Now, let's be clear: AMP is not the totality of the president’s manufacturing focus — his administration has been a bit of a mixed bag on trade enforcement; it tends to be overly optimistic when it comes to American goods export totals; and the president’s commitment to his 2012 campaign promise of 1 million new manufacturing jobs is pretty underwhelming. AMP doesn’t look at any of those things, and all of those things could use some serious work.
But a strong manufacturing sector is key to a strong American economy. And the administration’s engagement on AMP’s issues – improving America’s culture of industrial innovation and its business climate, and workforce development – is heartening. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.