Surrounded by an array of gadgets and high-tech equipment during a visit to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, President Barack Obama pledged to boost American manufacturing and to give entrepreneurs greater access to production tools that would help bring their ideas to fruition.
Obama visited this venerable steel manufacturing city to showcase a workshop chain called TechShop, a variation on a tool lending library that provides high-end instruments to hobbyists, tinkerers and startup businesses to help them realize their innovations. The tour was designed to draw attention to Obama’s plan to make more government technology and assets available to the private sector.
“I can’t rent the space shuttle out to you,” he joked. “But there are areas where we can in fact enhance what is already being done by companies like TechShop.”
To maintain the U.S. edge in innovation, Obama said, “we’ve got to have basic research, we’ve got to have skills like math and science and engineering that are developed, we also have to provide platforms for people who have these ideas to go out there and actually make stuff.”
As part of this push, 90 mayors and municipal leaders across the nation pledged to provide resources to small business efforts to increase manufacturing. The communities included Kansas City and Olathe.
The Pittsburgh visit is part of Obama’s renewed emphasis on how to create jobs and improve wages. During the next several weeks, he is looking to cut through the current foreign policy flare-ups with an emphasis on working families, manufacturing, wages and the need for greater spending on infrastructure projects.
That attention could be crucial in an election year when some Democrats in vulnerable races are not embracing other top Obama issues like climate change and health care.
Also Tuesday, the White House announced that the administration is giving entrepreneurs easier access to high-tech equipment at more than 700 research and development facilities, such as NASA’s National Center for Advanced Manufacturing in New Orleans and the Energy Department’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
In addition, five federal agencies will spend more than $150 million in research to support the Material Genome Initiative, a government and private sector partnership designed to speed up the development of innovative materials.
Obama touted technological advances that are putting production tools in the hands of anybody who has a good idea. He showed off his own iPad case that was made by DODOcase, a company that made its first prototype of the product at a TechShop in California.
“Cost of a gym membership, you have access to all this equipment,” Obama said as he marveled at the output of the shop.
The administration is paying special attention to manufacturing, a current bright spot in the economy. A White House report released Tuesday said manufacturing output had increased 30 percent since the recession ended, growing at a pace nearly twice that of the overall economy.