Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
NPR Special Coverage: The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today that could decide the fate of abortion rights all across the country. Click here to listen, starting at 9:30.
Politics & Government

Obama Touts Manufacturing, Access For Entrepreneurs In Pittsburgh Stop


American manufacturing was the focus of President Obama’s visit to Pittsburgh Tuesday.

The president stopped at TechShop in Bakery Square, a facility that allows start-up businesses, tinkerers and hobbyists to use high-end instruments they may not otherwise have access to. Obama said part of continuing the manufacturing boom in the country will be finding ways to make resources of the federal government more available to the general public.

“For example the Department of Energy, which has some cutting-edge technology and laboratories, if in fact they are not being utilized 100 percent, are there ways in which, in a controlled way, we can give more access to these assets for companies that are trying to start something up,” Obama said.

The White House Tuesday announced that the administration was giving entrepreneurs easier access to high-tech equipment at more than 700 research and development facilities, such as NASA's National Center for Advanced Manufacturing in New Orleans and the Energy Department's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

In addition, five federal agencies will spend more than $150 million in research to support the Material Genome Initiative, a government and private-sector partnership designed to speed up the development of innovative materials.

But the president made light of the announcement – and said there will be limitations.

“Some particle collider that’s worth a billion dollars, I don’t want you messing around with, I want physicists in there doing the work,” he joked.

The Pittsburgh visit is part of Obama's renewed emphasis on how to create jobs and improve wages. During the next several weeks Obama is looking to cut through the current foreign policy flare-ups with an emphasis on working families, manufacturing, wages and the need for greater spending on infrastructure projects. He took questions from the audience in a town-hall style event and discussed the importance of a higher minimum wage and pay equity for women.

Back to manufacturing, Obama said the sector will be key in continuing to rebuild the American economy.

“There are ripple effects," he said. "If you make a product here that means you’re hiring not just engineers, not just guys on the assembly line or gals on the assembly line, you’re also getting suppliers and advertisers, and there’s just a whole set of positive spin-offs that come out of manufacturing.”

The administration is paying special attention to manufacturing. A White House report released Tuesday said manufacturing output had increased 30 percent since the recession ended, growing at a pace nearly twice that of the overall economy, and those just starting out are part of that boost.

“We’re seeing more entrepreneurship in manufacturing than we’ve seen in the last 20 years, more manufacturing startups,” Obama said. “Large manufacturers who had moved overseas are starting to bring manufacturing back in part because our workers are more productive, we remain the largest and most prosperous market in the world.”

This was Obama’s third visit to Pittsburgh in 2014.