Technology sweepstakes great for Youngstown and Tech Belt
Don’t get overwhelmed by the techie-talk surrounding the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Concentrate on this: The $70 million initiative that will be headquartered in downtown Youngstown is a partnership formed to create a manufacturing innovation hub, and it beat out consortiums from other parts of the country, including one featuring the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
First prize was a $30 million federal grant. The other $40 million will come from the nine research universities, including Youngstown State, Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve; five community colleges, including Eastern Gateway Community College; 40 companies, and 11 nonprofit organizations in the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh Tech Belt
The institute, which will be located in the Youngstown Business Incubator Annex on Boardman Street, will develop “additive manufacturing,” also known as 3D printing, which can be utilized by a wide range of industries, including defense, aerospace and automotive.
The importance of the project was demonstrated by the list of people who attended the unveiling Thursday at the M-7 Technologies campus in Youngstown:
Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council; Rebecca Blank, acting U.S. Commerce secretary; Frank Kendall, under secretary of Defense; Brett Lambert, deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing; U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and university, business and community leaders.
Ryan has been a long-time advocate of the Tech Belt, arguing that the northeastern Ohio-western Pennsylvania region has been linked for more than 100 years, first as the Steel Belt, then the Rust Belt. The Tech Belt, or technology corridor, encompasses 7.2 million people, Ryan said.
Last week’s announcement of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute is another indication of the region’s economic strength and its potential for growth in high-tech and bio-tech industries and manufacturing.
The reason the Obama administration issued a request for proposals in May for the additive manufacturing initiative is simple: In order to be competitive globally, American manufacturers need to cut costs and boost production. That’s where the institute, using sophisticated computers and software, comes in.
Word that the Youngstown Business Incubator would be the home to this federal pilot project spread like wildfire through the high-tech community. This area has been getting positive attention of late for a number of reasons, but the Obama administration’s choice of Youngstown as the center of an exciting new initiative is a game-changing deal.