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Spending bill includes money for advanced manufacturing

Before leaving for the Christmas break…Congress gave Missouri Senator Roy Blunt and Missouri manufacturers an unexpected present. This story comes from the Springfield News Leader Washington correspondent Deirdre Shesgreen.

WASHINGTON – The $1.1 trillion spending bill that Congress approved last week sparked heated debate and fractured votes, with some lawmakers furious over 11th-hour provisions tucked into the 1,603-page package.

But at least one surprise provision included in the sweeping bill attracted little attention and bipartisan support: a measure to boost American manufacturing, pushed by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Blunt said Missouri’s manufacturing industry could benefit from the proposal, which will provide federal money for manufacturing “hubs” — public-private partnerships between universities, businesses and federal agencies and aimed at fostering the development and production of next-generation manufacturing products.

The spending bill sets aside $300 million over 10 years to establish 15 of these advanced manufacturing hubs. Blunt and Brown initially sought $600 million for the initiative, but the two senators cheered passage of the pared-back version of their bill.

Blunt said the manufacturing provision would “jump-start good-paying jobs for workers in Missouri and nationwide.”

The provision was included in a massive bill to fund the government through the rest of fiscal year 2015. The spending bill passed the House Thursday and cleared the Senate Saturday night. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.

The bill had one very vocal Missouri supporter: Terry Brewer, founder and president of Rolla-based Brewer Science. Brewer testified before Congress in favor of the bill, and on Monday Brewer said he was “overjoyed” it had squeaked through as the 113th Congress completed its work.

“It will provide a much-needed manufacturing network that will help the private sector successfully develop emerging technologies,” Brewer said.

In touting the bill earlier this spring, Blunt and Brewer both said Missouri would be a strong competitor for the hub funding, citing the state’s existing manufacturing base, good university partners and central location. But a bevy of other states–from New York to Ohio–will also be competing for the money.

The Blunt-Brown provision builds on an initiative launched by the Obama administration. Obama has set a goal of establishing 45 advanced manufacturing hubs over 10 years.

So far, the president has used existing federal funds from the Defense and Energy departments to designate a handful of hubs. Among them:

-The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (renamed America Makes) in Youngstown, Ohio, focusing on 3D printing.

-The Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute headquartered at North Carolina State University.

-The American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Detroit.

USA TODAY reporter Brian Tumulty contributed to this story.

Contact Deirdre Shesgreen at dshesgreen@usatoday.comor @dshesgreen on Twitter



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