Helping Ohio Workers Compete in a Global Economy

At the President’s State of the Union address, I was joined by Cookie Hall, a second-generation Cleveland steelworker who knows from experience that American workers are the most productive in the world. Cookie works at Cleveland Works, a steel plant owned by ArcelorMittal North America. Workers at this plant produce one ton of steel per each man hour of work – making it the most efficient steel plant in the world. There is no disputing that our workers are the most productive in the world, but there are steps we must take make them the most innovative.

In his speech, President Obama echoed my call for the creation of a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Using Youngstown’s first-of-its-kind manufacturing innovation institute as a model, the President announced the launch of three more manufacturing hubs and called on Congress to help him create a network of 15 additional centers. Every region and every state has a role to play in helping maintain our innovative edge and these new hubs will help.

I’ve been working with small businesses, industry leaders, universities, and research institutions on legislation to create these important NNMI institutes. This network will retain U.S. leadership in a range of next-generation technologies, capitalize on our investment in basic research, and create thousands of high pay, high tech manufacturing jobs. By leveraging existing infrastructure and pockets of innovation across the country, NNMI provides small businesses with access to the tools and expertise needed to compete in the global economy. This will create regional magnets for cutting-edge research, talented students, and additional investments.

And we’ve already started to bring people and organizations together to spur 21st century innovation. Last year, we were able to bring the first-of-its-kind National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) to the Mahoning Valley – to the “Tech Belt” that extends from Cleveland to Pittsburgh. NAMII is a $70 million public-private partnership that can make Youngstown a world leader in new manufacturing technology – like 3-D printing. As the President mentioned in his address, “A once shuttered warehouse [in Youngstown] is now a state of the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the positional to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”

Collaboration is critical for our success – and an NNMI would provide small businesses and research institutions access to the tools and expertise needed to compete in the global economy. And it can also spur the creation of regional hubs of advanced manufacturing throughout the U.S.

American workers have the drive, the creative thinking, and the determination to out-innovate the rest of the world. We just need to make certain that they have the opportunity to do so.