White House Maker Faire Promotes Manfacturing Innovators — Let's Get Serious About Helping Them Succeed

Posted by elizabethbb on 06/18/2014

There’s a giraffe over at the White House today. A 17-foot-tall, 2,200 pound robotic giraffe named Russell who walks on wheels, plays music, lights up and can carry up to 30 passengers in its carriage.

Russell is among the creations on display at the White House Maker Faire, a day-long event hosted by President Obama himself to highlight the people “using new tools and techniques to launch new businesses, learn vital skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and fuel the renaissance in American manufacturing.” The White House is making a big deal of the faire — President Obama issued an official proclamation declaring today the “National Day of Making,” and members of the band OK Go are even helping to promote it.

The faire comes on the heels of President Obama’s Tuesday announcement that federal laboratories and public-private research spaces will be made open to entrepreneurs, allowing manufacturing entrepreneurs to use “more than $5 billion worth of advanced equipment in federal R&D facilities … to develop new technologies and new inventions.”

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), we are thrilled to see the White House shining a spotlight on manufacturers — that giraffe is pretty darn cool, as is the biodiesel car, eco-friendly urban furniture, newborn incubator, and everything else on display. And as AAM President Scott Paul said on Tuesday, “opening federally supported research spaces to American entrepreneurs will help to ensure that we not only dream up the next big idea, but that we also make it here.”

But there is still a lot more the White House must do to help U.S. manufacturers succeed — and the president still has a long way to go to reach his goal of creating 1 million manufacturing jobs by the end of his second term.

At last count, the president was 866,000 manufacturing jobs away from his goal, which means the economy must create an average of 28,866 jobs each month before he leaves office. Given that in May just 10,000 new manufacturing jobs were created, things are moving far too slowly.

During his remarks at the faire today, President Obama highlighted a few of the things his administration is doing to try to grow manufacturing jobs, including launching four high-tech manufacturing hubs across the country, providing support to help inventors file patents, and working with private sector partners. All of that is great — but we’ve got a couple of ideas on how to grow manufacturing jobs that we think will be far more effective:

  • Get serious about the deficit. The overall U.S. international goods and services trade deficit rose to $47.2 billion in April; the goods deficit with China soared to $27.3 billion. The deficit remains the biggest impediment to a true manufacturing recovery, reflecting the millions of good factory jobs that shifted overseas (and the jobs that continued to be threatened).
  • Implement a Comprehensive National Manufacturing Strategy. Enacting and enforcing strong trade laws, combating currency manipulation, investing in infrastructure, and supporting Buy America provisions are just a few of the things that can be done to encourage manufacturing job growth.

The good news? There are some signs of movement.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) released a statement this afternoon praising the faire, noting it is “a further demonstration of this Administration’s serious commitment to helping more businesses and workers Make It In America.” Hoyer also highlighted the work he is leading to pass Make It In America legislation, stating:

I am proud to be leading the effort to pass Make It In America legislation in Congress so that we can keep our economy competitive by promoting science, technology, engineering, and math – or ‘STEM’ – education and encouraging research and innovation here in the US.  I hope Democrats and Republicans can work together to build on the Administration’s steps this week by passing Make It In America bills this summer.

Time will tell if Congress will actually take action on these bills, of course — this hasn’t exactly been the most productive Congressional session, after all. But what is clear is that if President Obama and his allies want to create 1 million jobs by January 2017, they are going to need to get moving.

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