U.S. Secretary Of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks At U.S. Manufacturing Summit

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Press Release
07/08/2015 10:43 AM EDT

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered remarks to more than 1,800 Walmart executives, potential suppliers, and state economic development organizations at the U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Bentonville, AR. The U.S. Manufacturing Summit brings together existing and potential Walmart suppliers to meet with buyers and also convenes meetings between state economic development leaders and companies that have expressed interest in moving to available U.S. manufacturing locations. This was Secretary Pritzker’s second time addressing Walmart’s Manufacturing Summit, as well as the third year that Walmart hosted the event, demonstrating the company’s commitment to Made in America products and suppliers.


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you. It is an honor to share this stage today with Governor Hutchinson. I also want to thank Greg Foran and Walmart for hosting this event. From raising the minimum wage for your employees to your commitment to sustainability, Walmart has led the way on policy changes that benefit the American worker, our environment, and our economy. Walmart also understands the importance of the manufacturing sector to the health of our nation’s economy.  Your decision two years ago to buy an additional $250 billion in Made in America goods is another example of a smart business decision that is strengthening our communities.

Like many of you in this room, America’s manufacturers are creating good jobs, supporting successful careers, spurring innovation, and sustaining economic growth. Since his first inauguration, this iconic part of our economy has been a top priority for President Obama and this Administration. We have been laser-focused on creating the conditions for companies like yours to grow, and our collective work is paying dividends. Wouldn’t you agree? Manufacturing is growing at its fastest rate in decades. Today, this sector supports an estimated 17.6 million jobs in the United States—about one in six private-sector jobs.Manufacturers in the United States are driving innovation. This industry is responsible for more than three-quarters of all private-sector R&D.

At the Department of Commerce, we work every day to connect manufacturers with the resources they need to succeed and thrive. As someone who spent 27 years in the private sector and knows how challenging it can be to work with the federal government, I am focused on smart government programs that work for YOU. Today, I would like to highlight three specific initiatives: the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Manufacturing Day, and the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.

Located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the Commerce-led Manufacturing Extension Partnership is a national network with hundreds of specialists who understand the needs of America's small manufacturers. Our experts can connect you with the resources and services you may need to become more competitive, meet a new market challenge, improve your production processes, adopt a new technology, or take a new good to market. For every dollar of federal investment, MEP clients generate nearly $19 in new sales. This is an exciting example of smart and effective government working specifically on behalf of America’s businesses.

We are making a real difference for firms like Toner Plastics, who saw a business opportunity with Walmart and worked with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center in Worchester, Massachusetts. In 2013, Walmart challenged the small manufacturer to design and produce in just eight weeks a new, American-made version of its “Rainbow Loom” toy. Toner Plastics reached out to its local MEP Center, who helped the company manage its redesign process; develop speedier production of the updated toy; and revise the licensing agreement with the original inventor. With the support of our experts, Toner Plastics was able to deliver a refined product meeting Walmart’s needs both on-time and at the designated price point. If your company needs assistance breaking down barriers and growing your business, I strongly encourage you to visit the Department of Commerce booth here at the Summit, who can connect you to the experts at your local center.

Another smart government program created by the Department of Commerce and this Administration is Manufacturing Day – a series of events across the country is designed to excite young people about the potential of a career in manufacturing. Too many people view manufacturers as outdated factories filled with line jobs – not as innovative, inventive businesses, where workers develop and use the latest technology and build lasting, middle class careers. We are changing this perception by inviting students, career guidance counselors, parents, and workers to open houses, public tours, and career workshops at plants and factories across the country. Thanks to the assistance and participation of many of you, last year’s Manufacturing Day brought 400,000 Americans to over 1,600 events. These efforts are making a difference. In New Hampshire, 88 percent of students said they were more likely to consider manufacturing jobs after their visits to local factories and in Florida, 95 percent of student participants said they learned something new about the sector. This year, we have set our sights higher. On October 2nd, we want to hold more than 2,000 events across all 50 states – but to reach this audacious goal, we ask for your help. We need you to open the doors at one of your facilities and host an event. Please sign up at mfgday.com, where there are resources and toolkits to help you develop and shape your event.

The Department of Commerce is also supporting the Make It in America renaissance through the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership. This program – run by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration – encourages regional collaboration to create comprehensive plans aimed at drawing inbound investment.

Here is how it works: Leaders from the private sector, local government, higher education, local economic development organizations, and other nonprofits work together to identify a sector of manufacturing where their community has a comparative advantage and draft a strategic plan that addresses: workforce and supply chain challenges; infrastructure; research and innovation; trade and investment; capital access; and operational improvement for manufacturing companies.

After selecting the best plans, the Department of Commerce supports their implementation by coordinating federal aid from 11 different agencies and providing the community with a dedicated counselor to navigate federal services. An IMCP designation is an important signal to potential investors that these communities are a good place to spend their money. And this is smart government at work. By breaking down silos and encouraging communities to take a more thoughtful, comprehensive approach to their strategic plans, we are ensuring that precious federal dollars are used on the most high impact projects and in a way that maximizes return on investment.

In 2014, we announced the first 12 communities to receive the IMCP designation. While we are barely a year into the process, we are already seeing results. For example, the Southwestern Ohio Aerospace Region has secured nearly $20 million in federal investment since receiving its IMCP designation. They have already created more than 2,500 new jobs and attracted new private sector commitments totaling $529 million in the region’s manufacturing base. Today, I have the pleasure of announcing that we have selected 12 new communities to receive the federal IMCP designation. These communities will be able to better respond to industry needs by building robust industrial ecosystems and strengthening their manufacturing clusters.

Among this group is the Madison Regional Economic Partnership in Wisconsin, who put together an ambitious strategy aimed at taking advantage of the growing trend toward “local foods.”  The community plans to expand the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, upgrade an existing kitchen incubator, build a Madison public market, and construct a training center and trucking logistics center. The other new designees are located across the country and span from a Louisiana State University-led consortium on chemical manufacturing to a partnership in the Pacific Northwest on wood products. I look forward to seeing how these communities grow as a result of their IMCP designation.

From coast to coast, America’s manufacturers are the backbone of our economy, and our country’s prosperity is closely linked to your success. Through smart programs like IMCP, Manufacturing Day, and more, the Department of Commerce is committed to being your partners as this vital sector of economy continues its remarkable resurgence. Working together, we can ensure America’s manufacturers remain at the center of our nation’s prosperity and keep America open for your businesses. Thank you.