By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON Feb 25 Joking that he would blast
off in an "Iron Man" suit, President Barack Obama on Tuesday
announced that two new manufacturing institutes aimed at
creating quality jobs would be located in the Midwest cities of
Chicago and Detroit.
Obama, who calls Chicago his home town, is seeking ways to
find jobs for middle-class Americans and raise their incomes
the U.S. economy continues to recover from a brutal recession.
In the absence of a consensus in Congress on how to proceed, he
has pledged to act on his own when he can.
Part of that push is an effort to expand manufacturing jobs,
many of which were lost in preceding decades as U.S. companies
searched for cheaper labor abroad.
Both of the institutes will be led by the Defense
Department. They will be supported by $140 million in federal
funds and another $140 million from businesses and universities.
The Detroit institute will focus on lightweight and modern
metals manufacturing, while the Chicago-based hub will be based
around digital manufacturing and design technologies.
At a White House event to highlight the initiative, Obama
noted that he was joined by researchers who were inventing some
of the most advanced metals on the planet and designers who were
working on prototypes in the digital cloud.
"Basically, I'm here to announce that we're building Iron
Man. I'm going to blast off in a second," he said to laughter.
"This has been a secret project we've been working on for a long
time. Not really. Maybe. It's classified."
With a Republican-led House of Representatives focused on
cutting federal spending and reducing the size of government,
the president has been forced to scale back his plans for the
institutes, finding money from savings within existing programs
rather than securing a big chunk of new spending for them.
The administration also announced a competition for the next
manufacturing institute, this one on advanced composites, as
part of its goal to launch four institutes this year.
Obama introduced the manufacturing innovation institute idea
in 2013. It is based on a German model and draws on a pilot
program in Youngstown, Ohio. The president's goal is for there
to be 45 such institutes in all.
"I don't want the next big job-creating discovery to come
from Germany or China or Japan. I want it to be made here in
America," he said.
"I'm really excited about these four hubs. The only problem
is Germany has 60 of them."
He said Germany had been able to take the lead in
manufacturing in certain areas because of its investment in such
institutes and training for workers. The U.S. manufacturing
sector, meanwhile, was adding jobs for the first time since the
The Obama administration in January announced the first hub
in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is focused on spurring
development of energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips.