President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced that Chicago and Detroit have been selected as sites for federally funded manufacturing institutes he alluded to in January's State of Union Address. His goal: to boost innovation in manufacturing and regain jobs lost to cheaper labor overseas. If all goes as planned, Obama intends to lay the groundwork for eight additional institutes this year and a network of 45 in years to come, assuming Congress supports the effort.
The Chicago facility will focus on innovations in digital manufacturing and design, the Detroit facility on advancements in lightweight metals. Both facilities will receive $70 million in funds from the Department of Defense.
Chicago plans to invest an additional $250 million in its institute, the majority deriving from private and government funding, including $16 million from the State of Illinois. The institute will operate from an existing building on Goose Island, a former manufacturing hub along the Chicago River, north of Chicago's Loop.
Detroit plans to raise an additional $78 million from contracts with industry and academia and locate its institute in suburban Canton.
Rather than function as think tanks, both institutes will ally with government and industry to advance their objectives. The Detroit Institute, for instance, will consult with a 60-member consortium that unites academics and researchers with leading producers of aluminum, titanium and high-strength steel. Research potentially could dovetail with efforts by automakers to develop lighter body components that require less fuel.
The White House noted that improvements to lightweight metal also “will strengthen our defense capabilities, enabling the creation of armored vehicles strong enough to withstand a roadside bomb, but light enough for helicopter transport.”
Consortium member University of Michigan projects activities could create up to 10,000 jobs in states the institute plans to target, including Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.
That's potentially good news for construction, as well.
In the meantime, Obama initiative is a nice shot in the arm for Chicago and Detroit – two cities that could use it.