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Senators want in on Obama’s initiative

U.S. senators from Indiana perked up when President Obama proposed a network of manufacturing innovation institutes during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

Republican Dan Coats and Democrat Joe Donnelly were sitting together in the Capitol when Obama announced that his administration will launch three more centers similar to one in Youngstown, Ohio, that is researching the use of 3-D printing in manufacturing.

“It was kind of funny because Dan and I instantly looked at each other; no words needed to be said. We looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s get on this right away,’ ” Donnelly said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters.

“So we’ll certainly be working together to try to pitch our case to the president that the best place for advanced manufacturing (centers) is in the best place for advanced manufacturing, which is Indiana, which is on the cutting edge of all manufacturing techniques and abilities,” Donnelly said.

But Coats – a frequent critic of Obama’s spending habits – wants to know details about Obama’s plan and how the president plans to pay for it, Tara DiJulio, his communications director, said in an email.

“He believes that public-private partnerships can unlock innovation and create jobs, but Congress must examine carefully every use of taxpayer dollars given our fiscal situation,” DiJulio said.

Obama said he will ask Congress to create a network of 15 manufacturing institutes. The White House set the cost at $1 billion.

In a Wednesday speech on the Senate floor, Coats said Obama’s State of the Union speech “outlined a liberal laundry list of new government programs and initiatives. I could almost hear the sound of a cash register in the background – ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching – with every new program that he put forward. Some of these ideas were worthy ideas, but we can’t afford them. How are we going to pay for them?”

Obama’s point man for the program is Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Brown announced Tuesday he will introduce legislation that would create the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation.

He said the regional centers would bridge the gap between research and product development; provide shared assets so that companies can access equipment and technology; and offer training to students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills.

The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown was started last year by the Obama administration.

The 3-D printing lab, placed in a former warehouse, is receiving $30 million in federal money and $40 million from a coalition of 60 manufacturers, colleges and non-profit groups, according to the White House.

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