WASHINGTON — Michigan Sen. Gary Peters is calling for the creation of a new federal agency modeled after the National Institutes of Health to serve as a hub for federal manufacturing programs and to boost manufacturing to a national priority.
Peters, a Democrat running for re-election to a second term, says the decline in U.S. manufacturing in recent decades is due in part to policy decisions driven by Washington, D.C., and he aims to change that.
Peters noted that as recently as 1980, five of the top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest average earnings were in Michigan including Flint, Detroit and Saginaw, according to the book “Jump-Starting America,” by Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson.
No Michigan communities made the list as of 2016.
“In recent years since our country’s economic policies have shifted that other industries like technology and health care, and as a result of this shift communities like Flint and Detroit have seen their economic opportunity decline, while regions like Silicon Valley and Boston have prospered,” Peters said in a speech Tuesday at an advanced manufacturing summit in Washington.
“Policy choices help propel some industries and some regions to success, while failure to invest in manufacturing has disadvantaged communities in Michigan, as well as across the entire heartland.”
Peters has not yet introduced legislation to create a National Institute of Manufacturing but is drafting it with input from manufacturers and academics around Michigan and the country and seeking bipartisan co-sponsors.
“For two decades, we’ve been inventing here, manufacturing over there. So we are creating knowledge but not wealth in terms of creating jobs or national security,” said Sridhar Kota, the University of Michigan engineering professor who organized Tuesday’s conference.
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“So we are really subsidizing research and development for other countries because we don’t have a national strategy or plan or what to do with that our good ideas.”
Peters said the United States has a critical need for a greater focus on manufacturing, workforce development and research and development as countries such as China, India and South Korea already have implemented national manufacturing plans, including several projects competing directly with the U.S. auto industry.
“This will give our nation’s manufacturing programs a higher profile, which will hopefully drive Congress to provide steady investments to these programs,” Peters said.