In the News

Why Obama is pushing high-tech manufacturing

Date: 03/03/2014

Company: Project Frog

Source: CNN Money

Americans like a comeback, and manufacturing could be next.

Last week, President Obama pledged $140 million in federal funding, combined with another $140 million in private funds, to two new high-tech manufacturing hubs in Detroit and Chicago. They’ll bring together private companies, nonprofits and universities to pioneer research for new technology.

The White House implemented two similar hubs in Ohio and North Carolina in 2013, and plans to launch four more this year.

And for the first time since the 1990s, the industry is adding jobs. More than 600,000 jobs have been created in the past four years.

But what’s clear is that these are advanced, high-tech jobs that look a lot different than the factories immortalized in films like “Norma Rae.”

“The U.S. competitive advantage is clearly not going to be in low-end mass production,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Where cost is the main driver, the U.S. can’t be the main player.”

Instead, manufacturers that are thriving are in what Muro calls “advanced industries.” They spend a lot on research and development, and depend on employees with science, technology and engineering backgrounds.

San Francisco’s Project Frog is another type of new manufacturer that heavily depends on designers, architects and engineers.

In fact, the company doesn’t do any of its own manufacturing. Instead, it partners with a number of manufacturers to create pre-made buildings that are cheap, energy-efficient and easy to assemble on site. CEO Ann Hand likens it to Ikea furniture, but the parts make an entire one- or two-story building rather than a nightstand.

The company was founded six years ago to provide buildings that offer better learning environments for students forced to attend class in trailers.

Schools put up a Project Frog building instead of a portable trailer, and Hand’s team brings parts from a variety of manufacturers to the job site. The ceilings, for example, are made by a Pennsylvania company called Epic Metals, while LED lighting fixtures and automated shades are supplied by Lutron, also located in Pennsylvania.

Read full story at CNN Money

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