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Obama makes plug for national manufacturing network

By Adam Aigner-Treworgy, CNN
updated 4:03 PM EST, Fri March 9, 2012
"Think of this as a place where companies can share access to cutting edge capabilities," President Obama says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President visits Rolls-Royce plant in central Virginia
  • He proposes manufacturing innovation network
  • Obama lauds latest job creation numbers

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama traveled Friday to a Rolls-Royce jet engine facility in Virginia, where he outlined a proposed network for manufacturers to share "access to cutting edge capabilities."

Obama, speaking in Prince George, said the National Manufacturing Innovation Network is meant to link industry stakeholders in a national conversation about best manufacturing practices.

The cost of the president's new proposal is $1 billion, but the White House is committed to creating a pilot program using appropriated funds from various departments, rather than waiting for Congress to approve funds requested in the president's budget.

"Think of this as a place where companies can share access to cutting edge capabilities," Obama told a crowd of nearly 1,500 about the proposed manufacturing institute.

"At the same time students and workers are picking up new skills. They're training on state-of-the-art equipment," Obama said. "They're solving some of the most important challenges facing our manufacturers. You've just got all this brain power and skill and experience coming together in this hub."

According to the White House, the location of the proposed pilot program will be decided based on a competitive process and will cost $45 million. Funding will come primarily from the departments of defense, energy and commerce, with some additional money provided by the National Science Foundation.

Obama's visit came on the same day the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced overall job creation for the month of February exceeded analysts' expectations. The manufacturing sector alone added 31,000 jobs in February, a feat Obama lauded.

"We just found out that last month in February we added 233,000 private sector jobs," Obama said. "More companies are bringing jobs back and investing in America, and manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. We just had another good month last month in terms of adding manufacturing jobs and this facility is part of the evidence of what's going on all across the country."

The Rolls-Royce Crosspointe facility is already engaged in a program similar to the one proposed by the president. Set to open later this year, the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing combines state resources with those of eight local companies, including Rolls-Royce, three area universities and funding from the Commerce Department.

While commending Virginia's commitment to manufacturing, the president also continued his call on Congress to take up corporate tax reform meant to begin rewarding companies that create jobs in the United States rather than overseas.

Additionally, he asked Congress to commit to training 2 million Americans "with the skills that will lead directly to a job right now.

"We need Congress to act," the president said, to applause. "It's true."

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