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Gillibrand announces legislation for local manufacturing industries

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MASSENA – Standing at Alcoa’s Massena Operations, where Alcoa operates an integrated aluminum smelting/fabricating facility and a smelting/casthouse facility, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the first piece of legislation she introduced in the 113th Congress is a federal funding competition that encourages states and regional public-private partnerships to design and implement comprehensive strategies that spur growth for local manufacturing industries, particularly in the thriving fields of clean-tech and high-tech manufacturing, and that train workers with the skills that businesses need.

New York State has been crippled by manufacturing employment loss, with over 123,000 manufacturing jobs lost since 2005. In the north country, an estimated 3,470 manufacturing jobs were lost from 2005 to 2010, including more than 1,120 from St. Lawrence County.

To bolster more growth in New York manufacturing, Gillibrand’s bill, called the Made in America Manufacturing Act, would create a competitive program that awards states and regions with funding to support local manufacturers through low-interest loans to build new facilities and upgrade equipment, and access to capital and technical assistance to develop exporting opportunities and to connect innovative small suppliers with larger companies. Funding would also go towards job training and vocational education programs that partner businesses with colleges, local workforce centers and other skill providers to prepare workers for manufacturing jobs.

“It’s time to see ‘Made In America’ again starting right here in New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I believe New York’s great manufacturing communities are well positioned to compete for funding that would help carry out their innovative ideas to spark more growth in high-tech manufacturing sectors, jumpstart new businesses, and create good-paying jobs right here where we need them the most.”

“Alcoa appreciates the work that Senator Gillibrand is doing to improve the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers,” said U.S. Primary Products President John D. Martin. “Specifically, we in the north country support her effort to revitalize New York’s manufacturing base, home of Alcoa’s-and the world’s-longest continually operating aluminum smelter.”

“We are thrilled that Senator Gillibrand has introduced this incredibly important legislation to help bolster manufacturing which is so critical to our region, and our country,” commented William P. Murray, executive director of CITEC. Working with small- and medium-sized manufacturers across the seven counties of the north country region under the Dept. of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, CITEC has witnessed the hits to manufacturing here but also the “tremendous opportunities that exist to turn that tide with companies who want to grow through innovative new approaches, programs and products made right here in America and here in northern New York State.”

Clarkson University Provost Charles E. Thorpe said, “Through research innovation and workforce education, universities are natural partners to assist manufacturers in retooling, expanding, and transitioning their enterprises to succeed in the 21st century economy. We appreciate Senator Gillibrand’s introduction of the Made in America Manufacturing Act and her personal recognition of initiatives at Clarkson University that demonstrate a true commitment to American industry and renewing economic opportunities through advanced manufacturing, supply chain management and enterprise solutions.” Before taking his post at Clarkson, Dr. Thorpe was a Fellow at the White House and assistant director for advanced manufacturing and robotics in the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the Executive Office of the President.

Tony Collins, president of Clarkson University and co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council also applauded the Senator’s manufacturing-based initiative by adding, “Senator Gillibrand’s efforts support the Regional Council’s Strategic Plan by meeting needs identified by many employers across the north country as well as open doors for new areas of investment.”

In an effort to boost manufacturing, particularly in advanced manufacturing sectors such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and aerospace, Senator Gillibrand’s first piece of legislation introduced in the new Congress would award up to $20 million in competitive funding for each statewide or regional manufacturing hub.

The Made in America Manufacturing Act would allow localities to use funding to:

Set up a revolving loan fund to help manufacturing businesses expand or establish new manufacturing operations. According to a Commerce Department report, the lack of available capital to manufacturers has especially restricted the ability of many small manufacturers to grow and compete. Without equipment upgrades and expansions, New York’s manufacturing sector will continue to lose its competitive edge in the global economy.

In an effort to retool New York manufacturers to be more competitive and create new jobs, the revolving loan fund would provide manufacturers with direct access to low-interest loans that are below market rate to construct new facilities or to retool, retrofit or expand existing plants, including equipment, infrastructure or energy efficiency upgrades. The federal investment could also help leverage matching funds from the private sector and other non-federal sources.

Create job training programs to help address the skills gap faced by our manufacturers. By working with community colleges, vocational education programs and job training providers to tailor education and training programs to the skill needs of manufacturers, this program will focus on strategies that train workers for the jobs of the future, and creating more good-paying manufacturing jobs right here in the U.S.

According to a 2011 survey by the Manufacturing Institute, more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs went unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers. A 2012 survey noted that one-third of small businesses struggled to recruit employees with the needed education and training. Gillibrand’s Made in America program would ensure federal funds are invested in job training partnerships to help directly meet the needs of local manufacturers.

Provide capital and technical assistance to boost exporting opportunities for manufacturers through supporting research and analysis of markets and countries with the greatest potential for expanding business as well as connecting innovative small manufacturers with larger companies as a supplier or to take advantage of government or private sector contracts.

New York organizations including CITEC, CenterState CEO, the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY), North Country Chamber of Commerce, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and High Tech Rochester support Gillibrand’s legislation. National groups such as AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers, and the American Small Manufacturers’ Coalition also support the bill.

Under Gillibrand’s bill, successful applicants would be required to form a partnership board of key stakeholders including county and local governments, small and large manufacturers, labor organizations, higher education institutions, workforce training centers, and local chambers of commerce to pool state or regional resources and develop a strategy to expand opportunities for local manufacturing, spur job creation, and close the skills gap that has slowed the growth of many manufacturers.

The Commerce and Labor Departments will evaluate applicants’ plans, also known as Manufacturing Enhancement Strategies, based on how the strategy will improve U.S. competitiveness and the expected economic return on investment, including job creation, cost savings by manufacturers, private investment that federal funding would help leverage, and how the proposal would address high unemployment and mass layoffs. Priority would be given to proposals that commit private sector and state or local matching funds and contributions on a one-to-one basis. The Departments would then work with winning localities to implement their plans.

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