Commerce Secretary Tours America Makes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The return on investment for the private sector partners with America Makes ranges from a low of 8 to 1 to a high of 20 to 1, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker informed reporters Thursday morning.

She also reported that the number of partners with America Makes has grown in two years to 140 across the United States from 60.

Meeting with the press in what was billed as a media round table in the national headquarters of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, Pritzker said she learned how “relatively small” its overhead is. Most overhead is devoted to “a coordination function” of its employees, she said.

Asked earlier how many America Makes employs in Youngstown, its director, Ed Morris, responded, “That’s a tough question” and wouldn’t venture a guess. Morris is based in Blairsville, Pa., site of most of the backroom operations of the innovation institute, branded America Makes.

Youngstown was the second of her three stops to institutes within the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation infrastructure established by the Obama Administration, much of that development underwritten by the Department of Commerce.

One-third of U.S. economic growth comes from technological innovation, Pritzker told reporters in her opening remarks. One role of America Makes is expanding and sustaining a national network of educators, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) government officials and private companies in the advanced technologies to keep “the United States on the cutting edge.”

The secretary emphasized “how critical it is for small and medium-sized businesses to be in the network with larger companies.”

Of her meeting with private companies, closed to the press, Pritzker said she heard glowing reports about how America Makes is helping them work side by side with their customers as they develop products more quickly and efficiently.

“In product design,” the secretary said, America Makes is helping “developer and user work side by side.”

She wants to see more educators, at both universities and community colleges, become involved in “workforce training to keep America competitive.”

Among the companies she met with are M-7 Technologies, Youngstown; Printing 3D Parts Inc., Liberty Township; and defense contractors that included Lockheed Martin.

General Electric Corp. has spent $32 million on 3-D technology outside Pittsburgh, Pritzker said, and Pittsburgh-based ATI has “a $70 million commitment for specialty metals.” ATI describes itself as “one of the largest and most diversified specialty metals producers in the world.”

Mayor John McNally praised the “vast network of institutions” America Makes has developed during its short existence, noting that those partners “compete while working together,” whether in designing auto parts or national defense.

China has 400,000 3-D printers in its schools where the United States falls far behind in encouraging its youth to learn how things are made and making them.

Perhaps because his daughter just started fourth grade, McNally told of how her interest in video games such as Minecraft could be used “in developing her mind, her attitude” and extend that interest to designing and making things.

McNally endorsed Pritzker’s statement that colleges and universities, community colleges and career and training centers must work more closely with industry in developing curricula where the faculty learn companies’ needs and tailor classes to meet those needs.

Pictured: U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker confers with Youngstown Mayor John McNally.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.