America Makes has much to celebrate on 5th birthday
On this Labor Day weekend dedicated to the ingenuity and productivity of America’s workforce, many old-timers in the Mahoning Valley will fondly reminisce of those days when steel mills dotted our landscape, making the region the third-largest center of steelmaking in the nation.
Though those days of massively making that vital raw material for the world are long gone, the Youngstown-Warren metro area is regaining a national and international reputation for manufacturing 21st century-style.
Tucked away in a formerly dank furniture warehouse building in the heart of downtown Youngstown, America Makes – the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute – has risen as a model for maximizing cutting-edge technology.
The trades of additive manufacturing and 3D printing that play out in America Makes’ Youngstown Innovation Factory are having a concrete impact on virtually every major industry – aerospace, defense, medicine, transportation, food, fashion. Some argue that its impact is even greater than that of the robotics revolution of the past several decades.
Recently, many of the principals behind America Makes gathered at its West Boardman Street factory to celebrate the institute’s fifth birthday. Clearly, they and the entire Mahoning Valley community have much to savor.
INSTITUTE COMES A LONG WAY
Five years ago this summer, former President Barack Obama announced creation of the first advanced-manufacturing hub in the nation in Youngstown. Some may have considered its goals lofty indeed when NAMII opened its doors.
Barb Ewing, now director of the Youngstown Business Incubator, extolled the vision for the institute at its grand opening: “At its most fundamental level, the goal of this program is to restore American manufacturing to its predominant position in the world’s economy and to rebuild our industrial base and create quality jobs for our future.”
At the time, some may have considered that vision grandiose. But five years later, America Makes has opened a clear path to achieve its noble goals.
Its growth has been meteoric. What started out as a public-private partnership with 14 members today has grown to more than 185 partners. They range from government institutions such as NASA to private businesses such as Johnson & Johnson to university research centers such as Youngstown State University. In fact, YSU has already carved a niche nationally as one of the leading centers of additive manufacturing research.
AM’s Executive Director Rob Gorham, whom America Makes lured away from Lockheed Martin in Texas, prefers to focus on the short- and long-term future.
Among his goals are doubling membership, increasing emphasis on workforce training and expediting research at a brisk pace. All are worthwhile goals that will advance the manufacturing sector of the American economy while strengthening the Valley’s reputation as a key player in that transformation.
“For us to be effective, we have to continue to grow our community,” he said at the recent fifth birthday party.
We’re confident that America Makes will continue to do just that while heightening its stature as a regional and national powerhouse for a new era in innovative manufacturing.