The governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania, both Republicans, are enthusiastic about Obama’s idea, at least as it is playing out in their states.
“We are seeing nothing less than the beginnings of a new Industrial Revolution,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said in a statement touting the new Youngstown center, formally called the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
Housed in a formerly abandoned furniture warehouse, the 3-D printing lab in Youngstown uses computers to create a three-dimensional model of an object, anything from a surgical implant to an automobile part to an artistic sculpture. Then a machine uses metals, plastics or ceramic powder to create the object.
The new technology, Corbett said, “means that manufacturing, something we once gave up for lost, is going to come back.” The head of Ohio’s Department of Development called it “the next generation of manufacturing methods.” Pennsylvania gave $5 million and Ohio gave $2 million to the project.
In Illinois, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is pursuing a similar path. His state is teaming up with the University of Illinois and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to create an advanced manufacturing hub “where companies _ big and small _ come to learn and use the world’s most sophisticated tools and software,” he said in his State of the State address.
But some are skeptical that new technologies such as additive manufacturing will create many jobs. “It looks like a new way of fabricating things that will involve relatively few people and a lot of computers,” said Don Grimes, senior research specialist at University of Michigan.
Other critics say the federal government is ill-equipped to choose which technologies are likely to take off and create jobs. “The risk is, especially if the government picks them, that they are picked for political reasons, rather than economic reasons,” said Harry C. Moser, president of the Reshoring Initiative, an industry-led effort to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. “The government has shown that it’s not at all very good at picking products, like Solyndra,” referring to the now-bankrupt California solar company that won millions in federal clean energy subsidies.