Since the inception of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, now called America Makes, the partially DoD-sponsored organization has sought to reinvigorate the manufacturing capacity of the United States, specifically in the region between Ohio and Pennsylvania. Once known as the “Rust Belt”, for the loss of manufacturing in the area, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Rep. Tim Murphy has worked with local industry to transform the region into the Tech Belt. These national efforts to revitalize the Tech Belt seem to be paying off, as GE has now opened its first additive manufacturing center in Pittsburgh, bringing advanced manufacturing and jobs with it.
Upon the 2015 launch of their Auburn, Alabama 3D printing facility, dedicated to the production of their LEAP engine nozzle, GE has opened a second facility in Findlay Township, Penn., near Pittsburgh. The Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA) will see GE invest $39 million in the facility over three years and, they project, the creation of 50 jobs related to mechanical, electrical, and software engineering.
Unlike the Auburn center, which is solely a production center, the Pennsylvania operation will also be dedicated to training, as well as the development of designs and applications. Uniquely, CATA will collaborate with GE’s other divisions, contributing to their knowledge base and advancing those businesses overall. Also at the facility, the company will implement GE’s Brilliant Factory concept, which combines analytics with manufacturing to determine productivity.
GE Chief Productivity Officer Philippe Cochet said at yesterday’s grand opening, “Today’s opening is strong evidence that GE is leading the digital transformation of industry, starting with a hub for the advancement of additive manufacturing techniques. The application of insights from digital connectivity in collaboration with intelligent devices will elevate the skills of our workforce, streamline productivity and enhance product development overall. This represents a new era of manufacturing.”
With multinationals coming under increasing scrutiny for exporting jobs out of the United States, as well as avoiding taxes, GE has made interesting moves to establish facilities domestically. Among the corporations that pay close to nothing in taxes, GE has consistently been called out as one of the largest. And, while it will be adding jobs to the US, the company is also reportedly offshoring about 500 American jobs to countries overseas. More than that, GE is an advocate of the controversial Transpacific Partnership, which, as many critics have suggested, could further lead to moving US jobs to countries without strict work and safety laws that will allow these companies to pay foreign employees far less than American workers (that’s in addition to maintaining high prices on US medicines, hurting the environment, giving corporations control over national governments through private tribunals, and enacting SOPA-style controls over the Internet worldwide).
So, while GE may be contributing to some US innovation and job creation, it does so while also doing the opposite in other regards. This is a win-win for GE, but may not be a win-win for the rest of the world, the United States included.