At least three Michigan lawmakers say Metro Detroit is well-positioned to earn one of four high-tech advanced manufacturing hubs that are up for grabs in a national competition — an effort backed by the state’s economic development agency.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he wanted to expand beyond the existing hubs in Youngstown, Ohio, and Raleigh, N.C., and add several more to the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation that aims to connect research universities to businesses and accelerate cutting-edge advanced manufacturing technologies.
Detroit — hometown of the American auto industry and Wayne State University, and in need of an economic revival — is uniquely qualified to host a manufacturing research and development center, some of Michigan’s congressional delegation members argue.
The Obama administration has pledged to help the bankrupt city any way possible — short of a bailout — through existing federal programs and technical support. Awarding a manufacturing hub would help make good on that commitment, said U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit.
“We should get a hub,” Conyers said. “There’s a direct relationship between the rhetoric and us getting a hub.”
U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, was also pleased with Obama’s manufacturing announcement; his wife, Debbie Dingell, chairwoman of the Wayne State’s Board of Governors, pledged Tuesday to work on a proposal to net a manufacturing hub.
“I’m going to go figure out how we go after one at Wayne State,” said Debbie Dingell, who was in Washington to hear Obama’s speech.
She noted WSU’s relationships with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, which together formed a consortium known as the University Research Corridor that aims to translate research into economic development.
“You will be seeing people get together in Michigan and figuring how to do it,” said Dingell, who also is one of Michigan’s members of the Democratic National Committee.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency, said it would support such an application. While no estimate was available about the exact money involved in a new hub, Raleigh’s hub that specializes in power electronics received in January a $70 million federal commitment over five years matched by another $70 million from involved businesses and universities. There also was no projection on jobs created.
“Michigan is a demonstrated leader in advanced manufacturing technology and we view opportunities to compete for a federally funded innovation hub as desirable,” said Michael Finney, president and CEO of MEDC. “MEDC and the State of Michigan are willing to support strong applications when there is a Michigan lead organization (or coalition), strategically aligned with our strengths.
“We have received a number of inquiries related to this opportunity and will work with WSU to coordinate efforts to submit the most competitive application.”
Obama highlighted Youngstown’s manufacturing hub in his 2013 State of the Union and proposed three others. The pilot location was spurred by a $20 million investment from five federal agencies. A consortium of businesses, colleges and nonprofits won the competitive bid in 2012, more than matched the federal investment with about $40 million and created an innovation factory that specializes in three-dimensional printing.
The three other manufacturing institutes will be funded by $200 million commitment across the five federal agencies — without congressional approval. Besides Raleigh, the other two institutes, led by the Department of Defense, are in the selection process with announcements expected in the coming weeks.
That leaves four more up for grabs with the new commitment from Obama. Even more could be created, Obama said, if Congress passes legislation that would double the number of hubs in place. U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan legislation in the Senate to do just that.
“I’m confident that when we compete for things, we have a great chance at winning,” Stabenow said of a potential application from Michigan.
Stabenow highlighted the Obama administration’s commitments to Michigan, with the rescue of the auto industry and in 2012 awarding an advanced battery research program to MSU’s bioeconomy institute in Holland and U-M’s campus in Ann Arbor.
“We won the national competition for an advanced battery innovation center, which has been a huge benefit for us,” said Stabenow, who sponsored that legislation. “Adding a manufacturing hub certainly would be welcome and certainly I would push for that but the administration over and over again is showing its commitment to the auto industry and to new innovation efforts in Michigan.”
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