President Obama picked the industry-heavy city of Pittsburgh to announce a new initiative to encourage public and private sector collaboration to develop innovations in manufacturing, which he said he hoped would usher in “a renaissance of American manufacturing.”
Surrounded by high-tech machinery as he stood in Carnegie Mellon University's Engineering Center, the president introduced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which will make $500 million of federal funding available to corporations and universities for research and development in emerging technologies.
An example is a decision by Procter & Gamble to share with smaller manufacturers software that it created with the Los Alamos National Laboratory that would reduce the cost of developing diapers by simulating some physical materials involved in the research process, rather than actually using those materials.
"Folks chuckle, but those who've been parents are always on the lookout for indestructible, military-grade diapers," Obama said.
The president's announcement comes as unemployment claims ticked up by 9,000 claims between the last two preceding weeks. He lamented that, for better or worse, this generation "has been pounded by wave after wave of economic change," including the prevalence of outsourcing and advancements in efficiency that have led to the disappearance of about a third of manufacturing jobs in the past 13 years.
He said that this partnership is geared toward helping manufacturers find new products to create, which the administration hopes will lead to more jobs to make such products.
"We have not run out of stuff to make,” Obama said. “We’ve just got to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector so that it leads the world the way it always has.”
In a conference call before the president's speech, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said because of the poor economy, President Obama would not fare as well in Pennsylvania as he did in the 2008 general election, when he won the crucial state by more than 10 percentage points.
"In 2008, Pennsylvania went for Obama based on his rhetoric,” Priebus contended. “In 2012 he's going to be judged on his results.”
Democrats also have a built-in advantage in the Keystone state, because they have about a million more registered voters than Democrats. The last time Republicans won Pennsylvania was in the 1988 landslide, when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis by just 2 points
Republicans, though, saw big gains in Pennsylvania in the 2010 elections, electing a Republican governor and senator, and now, just seven of the state's 19 House members are Democrats. Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Bob Gleason predicted the state would not swing Democratic again in 2012.
"We're almost red,” Gleason said, “and we're going to finish it off next year.”
Domenico Montanaro also contributed to this report.