Friday, August 17, 2012

Dennis Yablonsky: A Big Win for a “Mega-Region” - ImaginePittsburgh Now

A spirit of collaboration and public-private partnership has set the stage for the western PA-eastern Ohio-northern West Virginia “Tech Belt” to lead the way in revitalizing American manufacturing. The White House announced Thursday that the Department of Defense will provide $30 million to establish a National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. The federal grant will be matched with about $40 million by the winning consortium from our region.

Additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing, is a promising new way of making products and components. Just as an office printer puts 2D digital files on a sheet of paper, a 3D printer creates components by depositing thin layers of material one after another using a digital blueprint. The Department of Defense envisions customizing parts on-site for operational systems, saving substantially on costs related to manufacturing and shipping.

The Allegheny Conference, through the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, has been involved in the development of the TechBelt Initiative and this proposal from the very beginning. Our Tech Belt region, which stretches from Cleveland to Pittsburgh to Morgantown, represents the 10th highest GDP in the U.S.

This federal grant is a big victory for this “mega-region” because it validates the significance of our world-class concentration of manufacturing expertise and academic research. It puts us on the map for corporations and investors looking for the places that are driving innovation in the country.

Although the institute will be based in Youngstown it will function virtually, involving seven research universities and 10 community colleges, as well as numerous industry partners, government entities and service providers. Each will have access to the advancements made by everyone else. We believe this will lead to skilled job growth in R&D and manufacturing throughout the Tech Belt.

Today’s announcement also validates the commitment to collaboration and public-private partnership that has been a hallmark of our region for almost 70 years. Thanks to a shared vision with our neighbors, we were able a number of years ago to get a head-start over similar “mega-regions” in the United States. As a result, we were well-positioned to capture this opportunity when it became available. We can’t thank our partners across state lines enough for their shared vision and their willingness to make this a reality.

As is so often the case, none of this would be possible without the leadership and partnership of Carnegie Mellon, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, who have done so much in recent decades to work together to move our region forward. I’d also like to personally thank Dewitt Peart, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. De co-chairs the TechBelt Initiative and has helped to shape its vision for a shared economic development strategy built on innovation in manufacturing.

The institute is just a pilot, but we firmly believe that we have unequaled expertise in manufacturing and innovation in our region that will make it a success â€" and a model for similar initiatives in the years to come.

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