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White House Enlists Makers, Cities to Spur National Manufacturing Economy

June 19, 2014

This week, the White House hosted its first Maker Faire where President Obama announced a number of new public-private collaborative efforts to spur U.S. manufacturing entrepreneurship. In order to capitalize on the recent spike in manufacturing entrepreneurship, the administration is enlisting more than 90 mayors and local leaders to make new spaces available for manufacturing and prototyping. The White House also plans to make it easier for entrepreneurs to access federally owned equipment for research and production, expand federal agency support for smaller manufacturers and invest $150 million in advanced materials research.

The mayors recognized by the president are part of the Mayors Maker Challenge, a recent initiative spearheaded by the Manufacturing Alliance of Communities. The challenge asked mayors from around the country to pledge to support the emerging Maker Movement, a trend that makes use of new, affordable manufacturing technologies to help citizens become inventors and entrepreneurs. Mayors and local leaders can support this movement by making spaces and equipment available for research, development and prototyping. The pledge also asks mayors to support STEM education and entrepreneurship programs that help spur local and national innovation.

For the federal government’s part, the administration plans to make more than $5 billion worth of equipment from federal R&D facilities available to makers and local maker spaces. The Data.gov/research site now includes data on all of the equipment from more than 700 federal facilities that may be used by entrepreneurs and inventors. The president also announced that five federal agencies will invest more than $150 million to expand the ongoing Materials Genome Initiative to fund research into advanced materials and manufacturing technologies. Read the White House fact sheet …

Many of the efforts announced this week are geared toward supporting this development and plugging this newest wave of entrepreneurs into the support services that already exist for manufacturers. A White House report indicates that U.S. entrepreneurs are launching new manufacturing firms at the highest rate in two decades.

The report, released on Tuesday, notes that the growth rate of new manufacturing firms is at the fastest rate since 1993, while total number of U.S. manufacturing establishments is growing for the first time since 1999. These expansions have also led to the first uptick in manufacturing jobs since the early 1990s. In line with this week’s announcements, the authors attribute much of the recent growth to the changing face of manufacturing technologies and manufacturing entrepreneurship. Maker spaces, rapid prototypes, 3D printing and other additive manufacturing, and online support communities have unleashed a groundswell of smaller scale invention and production. Download Making in America: U.S. Manufacturing Entrepreneurship and Innovation

A few additional efforts were announced at the White House Makers Faire and during the president’s visit to Pittsburgh’s TechShop, a maker space described as “part fabrication and prototyping studio, part hackerspace and part learning center.” President Obama outline efforts at more than 13 federal agencies and private companies to make sure this new wave of manufacturers has access to startup grants, supply-chain connections and business mentoring. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Small Business Administration (SBA) and Department of Agriculture will begin specifically targeting small-scale manufacturers for support, and SBIR/STTR agencies will begin crafting targeted efforts to fund makers in key research areas.

The president also announced that the Department of Education, five other agencies and a network of more than 150 colleges and universities would commit to creating more maker spaces and make them available to students and educators. Read the announcement …


metros, manufacturing, white house, policy recommendations