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Building Ecosystems of Manufacturing Innovation

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Building Ecosystems of Manufacturing Innovation

By Karen Mills, Former SBA Administrator
Published: March 19, 2012 Updated: March 19, 2012

America is adding manufacturing jobs for the first time since the 1990s. We have created 440,000 good manufacturing jobs over the past two years, and we know that small businesses are leading the charge here. They create about two-thirds of net new jobs in the country, and more than a third of all manufacturing employees work for a small business.
Karen Mills visits a manufacturing facility

Made in America is strong and getting stronger. That’s why President Obama has proposed tax incentives to encourage manufacturers to invest in America, removal of tax breaks for manufacturing firms that ship jobs abroad, and enhanced workforce training. And that’s why the President announced plans a few weeks ago to create up to 15 manufacturing innovation institutes.

These institutes will bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and states to accelerate innovation by investing in manufacturing technologies. The institutes will bridge the gap between basic research and product development, provide shared assets to help companies, particularly small manufacturers, access cutting-edge capabilities and equipment, and create an environment to educate and train workers in advanced manufacturing skills. These institutes will also act as hubs for regional manufacturing activity, helping our large and small manufacturers become more competitive while creating an ecosystem that encourages investment on our shores.

Over the past three years, SBA has also taken steps to encourage the development of innovative ecosystems through other means. We have supported over thirty regional clusters nationwide through partnerships with other government agencies, several of which focus on manufacturing. Many of these robust clusters evolved out of innovation research institutes that are similar to what President Obama announced a few weeks ago. They enhance the local economy, serving as a convener of small and large firms, academia, and local governments to turn product ideas into market opportunities.

SBA offers capital, counseling and matchmaking opportunities, and we ensure small manufacturers have a lot to gain from access to these regional economies. Clusters connect innovative small suppliers with large companies, link research with the start-ups that can commercialize the ideas, and train workers with skills that firms need to capitalize on business opportunities. They ensure that all players in the innovation process are working together to foster an economy built to last.

I grew up in a manufacturing family, and over the past thirty years I have invested in and managed manufacturing businesses across the country. I know that the story of our nation’s greatness is written by our inventors, builders and doers. The small businesses I meet with every day as SBA Administrator bear witness to this strength.

Today, American manufacturing is poised for a renaissance, and the Obama administration is doing everything we can to make sure the world knows that made in America is still number one.

About the Author:

Karen Mills

Former SBA Administrator

Karen Gordon Mills is the Former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.


You have done a great job here on your blog. I am truly amazed by how useful information I found on here. Thank you so much!
Closing the gap between huge institutions is a great move from the board. I believe that if huge corporations could work together and innovate with todays technology, we could definitely achieve more as a country.

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