February 25, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Obama unveils Michigan manufacturing partnership

Washington — President Barack Obama unveiled plans for a $148 million manufacturing institute in Canton Township on Tuesday, joking that the Defense Department-funded institute could help create the next “Iron Man.”

At a White House ceremony attended by key Michigan Democrats, Obama officially introduced the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which will open this spring. Its purpose is to speed development of lightweight materials across a number of industries. “We’ve got to focus on advanced manufacturing here in the United States,” Obama said.

He unveiled plans for a separate $320 million institute in Chicago to design three-dimensional replacement parts. He said the new manufacturing hubs would help ensure a “steady stream of good jobs.” The country lost more than 5 million factory jobs in the last decade, but has added back 622,000 since 2010.

Obama noted that Germany has 60 similar manufacturing partnerships. He has called for Congress to approve $1 billion to fund dozens more: “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.”

Obama praised retiring Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who attended the ceremony, as not only the longest serving member of Congress but also “one of the very best.” Obama added that “so many of us have learned from (Dingell). ... He’s going to be very missed.” The crowd gave Dingell a standing ovation.

Others attending included Sens. Carl Levin, D-Detroit; Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing; Canton Township supervisor Phil Lajoy; four Michigan House members; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The University of Michigan — which will help lead the institute — said it could add 10,000 jobs over the next five years.

The manufacturing institute was selected through a competitive process led by the U.S. Department of Defense, and will receive $70 million in federal funds over five years, matched by $78 million from the consortium partners. The funding includes $10 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and unspecified funds from the state of Ohio.

The institute will be led by the University of Michigan, the Ohio-based manufacturing technology nonprofit EWI, and Ohio State University, U-M said. Partners include Honda North America, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech University, Wayne State University, Boeing and Alcoa. More than 50 other companies, universities and nonprofits will take part.

“Through this initiative, our region will build on its core strengths to become the nation’s technology hub for lightweight materials and manufacturing,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman.

The institute’s efforts will focus on the entire transportation supply chain, seeking to boost innovations from conception through design, development and production.

The consortium will contract for more than $100 million in research and development projects with partner organizations, U-M said.

U-M said most of the 10,000 jobs the institute is expected to create will be in the metal stamping, metalworking, machining and casting industries.

The Lightweight Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation — or LM3I — pairs leading aluminum, titanium and high strength steel manufacturers with universities and laboratories pioneering new technology development and research.

Obama wants a full national network of up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes, but needs approval and funding from Congress.

The institutes fulfill a 2013 promise by Obama to create three manufacturing hubs with a federal infusion of $200 million. The third hub is an Energy Department-led project in Raleigh, N.C.


President Barack Obama / Getty Images