Obama to unveil new manufacturing institutes in Chicago, Detroit

President Obama, shown meeting with members of the Democratic Governors Assn. at the White House on Friday, will announce two new manufacturing institutes to be located in the Chicago and Detroit areas.
(Pool / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to announce on Tuesday the opening of two new manufacturing institutes in the Chicago and Detroit areas as part of a larger plan to use public-private partnerships to advance his agenda despite opposition from Republicans in Congress.

Several federal agencies will join forces with companies and universities to run the institutes, which will be devoted to bridging the gap between applied research and product development, according to an administration official familiar with the plans.

Each institute will function as a “teaching factory,” the official said, and will provide training for workers while also helping companies get the expertise and equipment they need to offer new products and manufacturing processes.


The government will put up $140 million to match the more than $140 million promised by the private sector leaders involved with each project, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the plans before the official announcement next week. The federal government will devote $70 million to each of the two institutes.

The manufacturing initiative follows Obama’s new playbook for dealing with a deadlocked Congress unlikely to enact elements of his economic plan, which he will detail in the coming weeks in his budget proposal.

So far this year, Obama’s strategy has made heavy use of the bully pulpit and of his ability to convene private interests to combine efforts with the federal government he runs as chief executive.

Republicans have responded to those plans by pointing to their own solutions for job growth, like tax reform and trade expansion. White House officials are skeptical that GOP leaders will see eye-to-eye with Obama on much of his agenda.

So on Tuesday, Obama plans to unveil his latest effort to boost manufacturing and attract high-quality jobs — without the help of Congress.

The Chicago- and Detroit-area sites will bring the total number of institutes to four. The administration set up a pilot site in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2012, and a few weeks ago announced a new electronics manufacturing institute in Raleigh, N.C.

Obama has also pledged to launch competitions for four more institutes in the coming year in hopes of setting eight institutes in motion without any action by Congress.

Obama’s broader plan calls for a full national network of up to 45 institutes, but a program of that scope would require Congress to appropriate new resources.

The selection of Chicago to host a new institute drew praise from elected officials who have lobbying for it for months.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) predicted it would be a “shot in the arm” for the Chicago area. The amount of money may not seem “overwhelming,” he said, but the focusing of government and private resources will have a big local effect.

As long as Washington is gridlocked over budget issues, he said, this is probably the most effective way to promote manufacturing.

“I just don’t know if there’s an appetite by Republicans to help the president on this,” Durbin said. “But we have to do something, and this is the right moment.”