June 10, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Commerce secretary calls for more manufacturing partnerships during Detroit speech

Pritzker (Bullit Marquez / AP)

Detroit— Calling the Motor City one of the “most robust manufacturing centers in the world,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, in a Tuesday speech at Cobo Center, called for more public-private partnerships to support the growing sector.

In a new study released this week, the Commerce Department said manufacturing output has increased 38 percent and has added 640,000 jobs since the Great Recession, according to Pritzker. Michigan, along with four other states, accounts for more than half of those jobs.

“Detroit and its surrounding community have built a manufacturing epicenter that attracts private investment, keeps businesses connected and supports good jobs for American workers,” she said in her keynote address at the first-ever Big M manufacturing conference at Cobo.

Pritzker outlined a number of federal initiatives developed to help manufacturing across the country, including the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership started last September to encourage communities to develop long-term plans to compete for these companies and the jobs and economic infusion they would bring.

As part of that partnership, the Obama administration last month named 12 regions across the country — including southeast Michigan — that will share $1.3 billion to support manufacturing. It’s unclear how much money Michigan will receive.

Pritzker said the development of 3-D printing and other technologies are vital. To help ensure that, the government has designated a number of innovation institutes through a program called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Among the sites is a lightweight materials center planned for Metro Detroit.

“It will help America make cars that are more safe and energy efficient,” she said.

The government has also created Select USA, a foreign direct investment promotion program. From 2009-2013, $330 billion out of $770 billion in foreign investment was invested in the manufacturing sector, Pritzker said. That helped AGS Automotive open a $21 million facility in Sterling Heights in 2012 that created 90 new jobs and supported 50 existing positions.

The Commerce Department also co-funds the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, which recently helped Standish-based Vantage Plastics increase its sales 20 percent and improve its profits by $127,000. “These are the kinds of results the Department of Commerce wants to see nationally,” Pritzker said.

She ended her speech by encouraging manufacturing companies to work with high schools and colleges to develop training programs and change the perception that manufacturing jobs are old-fashioned and dirty.

“The renaissance in American manufacturing is underway,” Pritzker said. “We have a window of opportunity to build on the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs (the industry has) added in recent years. A career in manufacturing can be a challenging, rewarding and noble way to earn a good living.”

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