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Obama speaks to manufacturing workers in Iowa, touts his new high-tech manufacturing proposal

Following a few cursory introductory sentences at Alcoa’s eastern Iowa aluminum facility, which included ‘the Quads’ moniker he has long used when referring to the Quad Cities area, President Barack Obama got down to business quickly.

“Almost every airplane in the world has some kind of Alcoa product in it. Think about that. Every airplane in the world, you guys have something to do with,” Obama said, drawing an immediate applause reaction from plant workers and officials in the audience. “In fact, it turns out that you’re responsible for the wings on Air Force One. So I want to thank all of you for getting me here in one piece.”

And it seems the President is ready to return the favor.

On Friday, the Obama administration unveiled a $500 million project aimed at encouraging high-tech American manufacturing. The initiative, known as the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, is the administration’s latest effort to spur job-creation. It features several manufacturing companies — Alcoa, Ford Motor Co., Caterpillar Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., Northrop Grumman Corp., Dow Chemical and others — and six universities, including Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where the project was announced.

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/obama_rossrestaurant_350.jpgPresident Obama spoke with patrons during a stop for lunch at Ross’ Restaurant in Bettendorf. The visit fulfilled a promise he made during the 2008 campaign to stop next time he was in the area. (Photo: Pete Souza/The White House)

The administration, led in this effort by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, hopes to use the Partnership to identify and invest in promising technology and revitalize American manufacturing. In an earlier conference call with reporters, Ron Bloom, a key Obama staffer on manufacturing policy, said these “key players” will collaborate specifically on robotics and development of advanced materials — like the strong and light aluminum produced by Alcoa in the Quad Cities.

“The Wright Brothers — when they needed a lightweight material for their plane, they turned to Alcoa. And this company hasn’t looked back since,” Obama said Tuesday, adding that Alcoa has survived and thrived because of its willingness to adapt to change.

Change in the manufacturing industry has been quick and difficult. As U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley pointed out during a recent U.S. House hearing, the U.S. had 397,000 factories at the beginning of the last decade. Currently the country has 343,000 factories — a loss of 54,000 facilities and about 5 million jobs.

“That means that every day 15 factories are shutting down,” Braley said.

Only in recent months has the industry seen an upturn with the addition of nearly 250,000 manufacturing jobs.

“But for a lot of Americans, those numbers don’t matter much if they’re still out of work, or if they have a job that doesn’t pay enough to make the mortgage or pay the bills,” Obama said. “So, we’ve got more work to do — and that work is going to take some time. The problems that we developed here didn’t happen overnight, and we’re not going to solve them overnight either. But we will solve them.”

Good, middle-class jobs will be created in America when the country returns to a “robust and growing” manufacturing sector, he said. “I want the cars and plane and wind turbines of the future to bear the proud stamp that says ‘Made in America.’”

That’s the idea behind the new initiative, Obama said — “to create jobs now, and to make sure America stays on the cutting edge of manufacturing for years to come.”

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Mount Vernon Democrat who was in attendance at the Alcoa visit, said the work being done at the Iowa facility is a great example of what the President’s push is hoping to accomplish: a symbiotic relationship between industry, universities and the federal government to invest in emerging technologies that create jobs and enhance worldwide competitiveness. He also believes that his SECTORS Act, which provides grants to address businesses’ training needs, can help facilitate the same process.

“I have worked to emphasize the need to manufacture more products in the United States and have introduced the SECTORS Act that would help retool and streamline our workforce development programs that are needed to train our workers for specialized fields by bringing together key players, just as the President’s initiative will,” Loebsack said.

Braley, a Waterloo Democrat, added that he has “long called for a national manufacturing strategy” and, as such, was “very pleased” to see the Obama administration focusing on the area.

“Our economy, our national security and our nation’s future depend on a strong manufacturing sector that provides good-paying jobs to middle class Americans,” he said. “The President’s leadership is crucial to help us restore the image of America as a country that builds things.”

The President’s remarks are embedded below:

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