By Derrick Ek Corning Leader
WASHINGTON — A bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, that would establish a network of manufacturing innovation centers across the U.S. has passed the House. The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI Act) passed the House in a unanimous voice vote late Monday evening and is awaiting action by the Senate, Reed said during a conference call with reporters in his 23rd Congressional District this past week. It earmarks up to $300 million in federal funding — $30 million annually for 10 years — that would be available on a competitive basis as “seed money” to help establish a network of regional centers to develop new products and train a skilled workforce to manufacture them. The U.S. Commerce Department would establish the network, review applications and distribute the funding through its National Institute for Standards and Technology. The funding would be pulled from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account. Each of the centers would be dedicated to a specific new manufacturing technology or process, and would involve a partnership between industry, higher education and government agencies. The language of the bill mentions fields such as nanotechnology, advanced ceramics, photonics and optics, composites, biobased and advanced materials, flexible hybrid technologies and tool development for microelectronics. “I firmly believe this is a big piece in the puzzle that’s going to make U.S. manufacturing competitive for generations to come, and allow us to take products that are in concept phase and commercialize them so we can manufacture them here on American soil, sell them around the world, and most importantly, develop the workforce on top of it,” Reed said. Reed views upstate New York as a potential location for one of the hubs. The RAMI Act was introduced in August 2013 by Reed and Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass. The companion bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has already made it through the committee process and is ready for a vote, Reed said. Reed says he hopes the Senate will vote on it during the fall session, and that he’s been reaching out to Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Senate leaders. Reed says there’s “indications they’re ready to move on this” but admitted the Senate “has been a major roadblock on past bills that have come out of the House, there’s no denying that.” President Barack Obama has publicly voiced support for the bill in the past, most notably during his State of the Union address in January, and Reed says he’s confident Obama would sign it.