By Justin Sink
President Obama on Tuesday announced the creation of two new manufacturing institutes in Chicago and Detroit, the latest in a series of hubs designed to spur job creation by paring federal and private investments.
The institutes, which will bring together private companies, universities and federally backed researchers, will look to create new digital manufacturing and design technology. Each will receive $70 million in government money, to be matched by equivalent outside commitments.
The announcement of the hubs dovetails with the president's recent push to use unilateral executive action to bypass Congress. On Tuesday, Obama again voiced frustration with inaction from lawmakers in Washington.
"While Congress decides on what it's going to do, we're going to go ahead and take some action," he said.
The president has found money for the institutes in existing federal budgets and touted them as an example of how he can make a difference even without a new jobs bill.
The Chicago and Detroit hubs will be the third and fourth of their kind, after a pilot hub in Youngstown, Ohio, and an energy-efficient electronics institute in Raleigh, N.C. The White House has said that Obama hopes to create 45 such institutes and will include funding for that project in his budget proposal to be released next week.
"I don't want the next big job-creating discovery to come from Germany or China or Japan," Obama said. "I want it to be made here in America."
Surveying a number of machines set up in the White House's East Room, Obama joked that the institute could build the suit from the "Iron Man" comics.
"I'm going to blast off in a second," he quipped. "This has been a secret project we've been working on for a while."
The Michigan facility will focus on developing advanced lightweight materials that can help reduce the weight — and fuel consumption — of cars and trucks.
"We believe there's going to be an incredible demand for these metals, both for both from the military and from the private sector, and we want to make sure they're made right here in America," Obama said.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who was present at the unveiling, said the consortium was "an investment in American manufacturing’s future, and it will help keep us competitive in the future and ensure our country – and particularly Michigan – maintains its lead in advanced manufacturing.”
The second hub, based in Chicago, aims to help use digital technology to speed up manufacturing.
"The country that gets new products to market faster and at less cost, they'll win the race for the good jobs of tomorrow," Obama said.
Chicago Mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel — who Obama joked was "responsible for trimming my trees, and potholes, in front of my house, and shoveling snow" — was in the crowd for the announcement.
Republicans have been reluctant to embrace the president's plan to expand the hub program, saying they prefer to spur tax growth with trade expansion and tax reform. Earlier Tuesday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) discussed trade issues with Obama during a private meeting in the Oval Office.