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Obama to announce two new manufacturing hubs Tuesday

Obama to announce two new manufacturing hubs Tuesday
CNN
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Sunday, February 23, 2014 - 12:12am

President Barack Obama will announce Tuesday two new private-public partnerships meant to spur high-quality manufacturing jobs in Chicago and Detroit.

A White House official told CNN that the announcement will pave the way for two "innovation institutes" led by the Defense Department and supported by $280 million -- half from the federal government and half from private partners.

The move is the latest announcement in Obama's "year of action," in which he promised to use executive authority to circumvent congressional gridlock to get things done. Critics have questioned the constitutionality of some of those initiatives.

Using existing funds, these innovation institutes bring together universities and academic institutions, private companies and federal agencies to "co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.," according to the White House.

The program also focuses on students, hoping to expose them to unique training opportunities and men and women in the business world.

One institute will be based in the Detroit area and led by the manufacturing giant EWI. Its 60 partners -- " the world's leading aluminum, titanium, and high strength steel manufacturers" and "universities and laboratories pioneering new technology development and research" -- will work to develop new lightweight and high-performing metals and alloys.

The other, based in Obama's hometown of Chicago, will be led by UI Labs and focused on so-called digital manufacturing. With 73 different partners, the goal is to create a "novel partnership between world-leading manufacturing experts and cutting-edge software companies to enable interoperability across the supply chain, develop enhanced digital capabilities to design and test new products, and reduce costs in manufacturing processes across multiple industries."

A full list of involved organizations will be unveiled at Tuesday's announcement.

The White House official highlighted the recent growth in American manufacturing jobs and promised these collaborative projects would bring more. Some 622,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since early 2010, the official said -- although manufacturing employment has been on a downward trend since its peak in 1979, with more than 2 million Americans losing their jobs between December 2007 and June 2009 alone.

The new projects mirror a similar one in North Carolina that Obama unveiled last month and promised in his 2013 State of the Union. The project in Raleigh, which is just taking off, focused on making electronic devices of all sorts, from motors to mobile phones, faster, smaller and more efficient. When that project was announced, the White House previewed the Detroit and Chicago initiatives.

In total, the White House is looking to create up to 45 "institutes," but the official blamed Congress for standing in the way.

"The President will continue to work with Congress to get legislation passed while continuing to make progress where he can to boost these partnerships that are important to revitalizing our manufacturing sector," said the official.

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