Manufacturing Institute Puts $70M Notch in 'Tech Belt'
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley’s submission beat out a dozen others – including proposals linked to research universities such as MIT and Georgia Tech – for an $85 million project that officials say will spur a revolution in American manufacturing. And by mid-September, the first phase of this revolution – the creation of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, or NAMII – will be in operation in the heart of downtown.
“The potential of additive manufacturing for transforming business within almost every industry is huge,” said the acting U.S. secretary of commerce, Rebecca Blank, shortly after officials announced the project. "It's just an enormous possibility here."
Blank, the director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling, and Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall were among the senior officials from the Obama administration who attended a ceremony at M7 Technologies to announce the project.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-17 Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also joined the White House delegation on stage.
Ryan, along with U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-4 Pa., helped kick off the Tech Belt initiative – an effort to harness the collective power of the region's academic and business sectors to attract new investment into western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and northeastern Ohio.
The NAMII project initially consists of a $30 million grant from the federal government and another $40 million drawn from a regional consortium of private companies, universities, community colleges and nonprofits to develop the center. Another $15 million in future funding is pledged. The money will pay for staff at the new institute and more significantly, the research, software and advanced manufacturing equipment the companies and schools in the consortium will use.
In the short-term, only a few jobs will be created, 10- to 20, officials say. Long-term spin-off numbers – jobs created as a result of the research and resulting manufacturing efficiencies -- were not offered by the federal officials.
The additive manufacturing institute is the first announcement related to the Obama administration's "We Can't Wait" initiative, which encourages public-private development efforts to support American manufacturing. Youngstown is the site of the first pilot project.
"I'm pleased that we are taking steps to strengthen American manufacturing by launching a new manufacturing institute in Ohio," Obama said in a statement. "This institute will help make sure that the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow take root not in places like China or India, but right here in the United States of America."
Additive manufacturing is an advanced production method that uses precision technology to create components through 3-D printing, where parts are formed through a digital model. The method allows companies to manufacture a component with intricate shapes and tight tolerances by using a single source material and build the component up layer by layer.
If more traditional manufacturing techniques were used, the same component would require methods commonly used in subtractive manufacturing. That is, essentially carving parts out of the material and often having to manufacture smaller pieces separately and then assemble them into a larger component. Additive manufacturing processes are becoming increasingly important for defense, aerospace and biomedical applications. The technology has the potential to eliminate tooling costs, reduce material waste and create complex components. Companies can therefore substantially reduce production costs and become more competitive in the global market, Blank said.
The new institute's laboratory is likely to attract significant research potential here in the Mahoning Valley, and most important, new business, Blank said. "It'll almost surely attract new businesses, additional researchers, creating new jobs and creating a cluster in this very area around this innovative and new technology," she said.
Renovation is under way at the Youngstown Business Incubator's 12,000-square-foot annex at 236 W. Boardman St. to accommodate the new lab. The building upgrade was made possible by a $450,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secured as an earmark through Ryan's office.
Software operations will be on the second floor of the building while other hardware and advanced manufacturing equipment will be on the first floor.
The new hub will open next month and be administered by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, based in Latrobe, Pa. A number of staff there will relocate to the Youngstown area.
"The intent of NAMII is to transition technologies to additive manufacturing" instead of traditional methods of casting and forging, noted Ralph Resnick, president and executive director of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and acting director of NAMII.
Part of the effort will be not only to develop technology, but to enhance the skills of the work force to meet the demands of advanced manufacturing.
"The Youngstown facility will be the hub of NAMII," he said. "It's the backbone."
Two critical elements of the project are its potential for self-sustainability and level of participation from companies that would use this technology in the commercial market, added Kendell, the undersecretary of Defense.
"They were looking for a consortium of companies that are able to take the technology and get it out into the marketplace," he said. Hurdles such as managing and sharing intellectual property once inhibited cooperation in the private sector, but the Youngstown proposal includes provisions that successfully deal with these issues.
"It was just a well put-together team that had a complete package that met the criteria well and exceeded the submissions by the others," he said.
Forty companies with a presence in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, including two nearby companies – M7 and Applied Systems and Technology Transfer, or AST2 – contributed private funds to the effort.
"We'll use our facilities, our human capital and technologies that we've currently developed to enhance this technology," said Mike Garvey, president of M-7.
The list of these companies reads like a who's who of industry giants doing business in the defense and aerospace industries: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, IBM, Johnson Controls, RTI International Metals and Westinghouse Nuclear are all partners in this effort.
Moreover, the submission included a cross-section of intellectual talent housed in nine research universities throughout the region. They are Youngstown State, Akron, Kent State, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Penn State, Robert Morris, the University of Pittsburgh and Lehigh University.
"When you create these type of consortiums, everybody has an interest of continuing to work together," said Sperling. "You become a magnet for location, a magnet for job creation. It creates the incentive to come in."
Sperling added that Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley epitomize the work ethic and vision that should be replicated across the country. "When you come here and see the inspiration, the hard work, the jobs, the creativity here – you can see America's manufacturing future here," the director of the National Economic Council said.
The Youngstown effort serves as a model for the rest of the United States, Sperling continued. "I think people will come here. They'll see what's happening. This is good for jobs. This is good for innovation."
The announcement yesterday is the culmination of Ryan's vision of creating a "tech belt" that stretches from northeastern Ohio, into western Pennsylvania, and down through West Virginia.
In 2007, he and Altmire co-hosted a meeting with about 100 community and business leaders in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio. The idea was to begin a dialogue about how to collectively attract regional investment to enhance American competitiveness and to create jobs that pay well.
"We weren't competing internally," he told an audience of about 200 at the press event Thursday. "Youngstown wasn't competing against Akron. Cleveland wasn't competing against Pittsburgh. We were all competing against Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai. If we didn't come together locally, we would never compete globally."
Ryan said that the idea was to bring the diverse talent and resources in the region together – universities and businesses, for example – and develop the synergies they could offer.
"I think this is a signal that this community and this region is back to play, and play hard," Ryan said. "There were institutions like MIT and Georgia Tech that our collaboration competed with, and we won. It shows that when we work together, a lot more can be achieved."
Although Congress has stalled on President Obama's initiative to spend $1 billion to formulate 15 other advanced manufacturing hubs across the country, Sen. Brown said, the Youngstown project was made possible because of money the president freed up from the departments of defense and commerce.
"We want to see this expanded with congressional approval to replicate this in Ohio and other parts of the country," Brown said. "Youngstown's first, Youngstown is going to do it best, and this pilot project will lead to much, much, more."
Copyright 2012 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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