Obama Offers U.S. Assets to Help ‘Tinkers’ Create Jobs

President Barack Obama offered inventors and shade-tree mechanics access to U.S. government research facilities to help create products that may lead to manufacturing jobs.

Obama, in Pittsburgh today, said the government will make available to inventors more than $5 billion of equipment at more than 700 federal research and development facilities.

American manufacturing “has come roaring back” since the recession, he said, but the U.S. needs to maintain skills and basic research “if we’re going to maintain our innovative edge in this global economy.”

A White House report released yesterday said manufacturing output had increased 30 percent since the end of the recession in June 2009, growing at a rate almost twice that of U.S. economy.

Manufacturing has a “ripple effect” on the economy, Obama said.

Under the program to use government assets and research, inventors might use NASA’s wind tunnels to test the strength and design of a new aeronautics design. Or the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory could be used to test composites and carbon fibers that lead to clean energy technologies.

This is “equipment that no individual or small business could ever afford on its own,” said Jeff Zients, director of the White House National Economic Council, who briefed reporters before the president’s announcement.

Inventor Help

Obama made the announcement of the federal program at TechShop, a private chain of workshops where people can take classes on electronics, metal working, and other industrial tool-based skills to build and test their own inventions and products and create jobs.

TechShop calls itself a “playground for creativity” and “part fabrication and prototyping studio, part hacker space and part learning center.” It has eight facilities in six states. Members pay $125 a month for access to advanced machines, tools, 2D and 3D design software, and other professional equipment.

The administration also said that more than 90 mayors or local business leaders are expanding community access to manufacturing and prototype equipment to inspire careers in industry or engineering.

Manufacturing Renaissance

In addition, the White House will host tomorrow what it calls a Maker Faire to tout new inventions that may “fuel the renaissance in American manufacturing.” U.S. manufacturing accounts for 75 percent of the country’s private sector research and development.

Tonight in New York City, Obama attended a pair of fundraisers to benefit the Democratic National Committee, and joined a separate Senate Majority Political Action Committee event but didn’t seek or solicit campaign cash.

The first fundraiser was a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender gala in Manhattan. Obama was joined by U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the DNC.

The fundraiser came a day after the White House said Obama plans to sign an executive order that would ban federal contractors from discriminating against gay and transgendered employees. The president repeated that pledge tonight to supporters, gathered in New York’s Gotham Hall.

Congressional ‘Heat’

Obama said that while an executive order would be helpful, it’s limited in what it can do to protect rights and curb discrimination.

“It doesn’t reach everybody that needs to be reached,” he said, so “don’t take the heat off Congress” to pass more sweeping legislation.

Separately, the Senate for the first time confirmed 98-0 an openly gay black man for a federal judicial post, the Associated Press reported.

A second fundraiser for the DNC was held at the home of Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. About 30 supporters were to contribute as much as $32,400 each.

Obama promised to attend 30 fundraisers by the end of June to raise cash for Democrats for the midterm elections.

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