By U.S. REPS. TOM REED and JOE KENNEDY III
About 400 miles, one well-traveled border, and a healthy dose of political differences separate Western New York and Southeastern Massachusetts. What they share is a proud commitment to American manufacturing - a critical piece in this country's long-term economic recovery efforts. Supporting domestic manufacturing is a priority that leaders on both sides of the aisle stand squarely behind.
Across the United States, historic industrial epicenters from the Northeast to the Midwest aren't shying away from the challenge of post-recession recovery. As these communities wrestle with stubborn unemployment rates and a systemic shift away from the traditional industries that powered their regions, they are inventing, adapting and innovating at a stunning pace. Textile mills and auto parts producers are being joined by life sciences incubators and high tech firms.
Family-owned small businesses are finding new neighbors among precision manufacturers and information technology companies. It is the dynamic new face of the American economy, driving a resurgence in the idea that the products American families use can be made down the street, not across the ocean. If our communities are to fully rebuild, we must again become a nation that builds things.
The impact of a burgeoning revival in domestic manufacturing is tangible. In 2012 alone, manufacturing contributed $2.03 trillion to the nation's economy and accounted for 56 percent of all U.S. exports. The manufacturing sector employs over 12 million Americans, earning higher average wages than any other employment sector of our economy. Just a few weeks ago, the Institute for Supply Management's monthly manufacturing report indicated manufacturing growth for the 11th consecutive month.
For Americans from the East Coast to the Pacific Northwest and everywhere in between, this is very good news. However, the continued growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector faces serious roadblocks, including increased competition abroad and trouble finding qualified workers to fill an increasing number of available jobs.
The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act, or RAMI, will address these lingering challenges by capitalizing on what we do best in the United States - innovating. RAMI will create a national network of industry-driven, regionally-based Centers for Manufacturing Innovation (CMIs). Each CMI will focus on a specific manufacturing process or technology of critical importance to its local economy and our country's long-term economic growth, from semiconductors that will shape the next generation of power electronics to modern metals that will transform the cars we drive, materials we build with, and the machines our military depends on.
RAMI accomplishes these goals by bringing stakeholders together under one roof. The CMIs will operate as public-private partnerships between local universities, community colleges, and manufacturers large and small in order to ensure each step of the manufacturing process - from research and development to production and workforce training - is in sync.
This kind of systemic collaboration is the key to addressing the so-called "valley of death" in the manufacturing lifecycle. Too often, innovative products never make it from the research lab to the store shelf. RAMI addresses this challenge head-on by diversifying the risk associated with production - giving a wider group of people a stake in the commercial success of a new product.
Furthermore, RAMI prioritizes accountability and efficiency. These public-private partnerships are required to be self-sufficient within seven years, challenging local stakeholders to find a cost-effective way to bring innovation to market, all while training the next generation workforce to keep the technology, and jobs, here at home. This will ensure the CMIs offer a real return on our investment rather than becoming a long-term spending obligation for the federal government.
It is time for Congress to bring this bill to the floor for a vote. Since last year, industry groups have lined up in support, including Procter & Gamble, the National Association of Manufacturers, General Electric, Texas Instruments, IBM, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, Goodyear, America's Natural Gas Alliance, Precision Machined Products Association, The Dow Chemical Company, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and many more critical allies. In the House, we have over 80 bipartisan cosponsors on our bill, H.R. 2996, and, in April, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a companion bill sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown and Roy Blunt with unanimous support.
Massachusetts communities like Fall River, Taunton and Attleboro and New York's Southern Tier and Finger Lakes are proud displays of American ingenuity and economic growth. We believe they will continue to be just as instrumental in our future. By helping bridge the gap between innovation and commercial production, RAMI will help these regions re-establish the United States as a global manufacturing epicenter.
Congressman Tom Reed represents New York's Southern Tier and Finger Lakes in the United States House of Representatives. Reed also co-chairs the House Manufacturing Caucus. Congressman Joe Kennedy represents the 4th District of Massachusetts and is a member of the House Manufacturing Caucus, as well as the House Committee on Science & Technology.