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Ingenuity thrives in heart of downtown

U.S. Commerce Secretary announces federal grants during trip to America Makes

Staff photo / Ed Runyan U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. speaks Wednesday at America Makes on West Boardman Street after a tour of the facility and another additive manufacturing facility next door at the former Youngstown Vindicator building on Vindicator Square.

YOUNGSTOWN — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross Jr. visited America Makes on Wednesday and saw additive manufacturing at work at the organzation’s West Boardman street facility and the Youngstown Business Incubator facility next door.

He also announced that the Department of Commerce is awarding a $1.4 million grant to America Makes that will “help expand production capacity from 240,000 to 400,000 units of personal protective equipment per week using additive and digital manufacturing technologies.”

He said he is “extremely pleased to witness the ingenuity and discovery that is taking place in the heart of downtown Youngstown. It’s reflective of this state’s continuing investment in — and commitment to — manufacturing.”

He applauded the public-private organization’s “swift action in rebuilding of the medical and protective equipment supply chain to deal with the COVID-19 emergency.”

He was referring to America Makes’ work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs to assist manufacturers in printing personal protective equipment for medical providers through additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, uses data and computer-aided design software or 3D scanners to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, to create an object.

Ross said America Makes “optimized 31 protective equipment designs for clinical use, including 28 for production by the additive manufacturing community.”

He also announced a $5 million CARES Act Recovery Assistant Grant to the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., located on Belmont Avenue in Liberty, that provides financing to northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania businesses and organizations.

The money will assist small businesses and entrepreneurs negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

He noted that the two grants together are $6.4 million “to support area businesses” at a time when the state’s economy is rebounding from “the biggest economic shock that I can remember.”

He read his remarks about additive manufacturing and the two grants, but demonstrated his decades of business experience when asked to discuss what he thinks the U.S. economy will do in the coming months.

“I believe we will have a very sharp, V-shaped recovery assuming that the coronavirus doesn’t get totally out of hand,” he said.

He said the federal aid that was distributed in recent months was “much more and much quicker than last time,” referring to the 2008 financial crisis.

Most of the aid went to individuals and small businesses that employ half of all American workers, he said. “Last time, most of the money went to fix broken banks, Wall Street and broken big industries.”

He added that consumers are “in much better shape going into this situation than it was in 2008 and 2009. Back in 2009, the savings rate got down to about 3 percent. A month or so it was 31 percent, even now, it’s 23 percent.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper issued a news release in advance of Ross’ visit to Youngstown, noting that Ross and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia were visiting Ohio on Wednesday.

Pepper said the visits are intended to “spin Donald Trump’s disastrous trade failures, but today’s photo ops can’t change the fact that General Motors is building its new Chevrolet Blazer in Mexico, not their Lordstown plant, which GM shut down last year.”

Pepper said, “At a speech in Toledo in September 2016, Trump said, ‘New factories will come rushing onto our shores,’ but instead of building the Chevy Blazer in Ohio, GM decided to shut down their Lordstown factory and build their SUV in Mexico.”

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