By guest author Vanesa Listek from 3D Printing
The Additive Manufacturing Coalition hosted a live forum with Congresswoman Haley Stevens to discuss what the industry can expect from the 117th Congress, which convened for the first time in Washington D.C. on January 3, 2021. The Michigan Democratic Representative is currently focusing on a recovery scheme for the manufacturing industry and looking forward to champion initiatives that will help the 3D printing sector succeed—particularly as it pertains to the overwhelming demand for human capital and advanced technologies.
“The future is obviously here, and we were thrown the curve ball of curve balls last year—ending up in a very unprecedented dynamic with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and extra pressure being placed on our manufacturing sector, and the new technologies of proliferation, productivity, and connectivity. We have seen a great emphasis over the last decade on the capabilities of additive manufacturing, 3D printing and what this means to ‘make it in America’,” described Stevens.
During the forum, Stevens said she believed additive manufacturing (AM) would be a high priority for this new Congress. The support for manufacturers will be tied into the next stage of the country’s growth trajectory. Furthermore, House members, particularly from the Great Lakes region and aerospace-intensive manufacturing states like Texas and Oklahoma, will be very interested in the AM community.
“I think there will be a House and Senate engagement as it pertains to unlocking R&D capabilities,” explained Stevens.
In November 2020, the Detroit native was re-elected in Michigan’s 11th congressional district, a suburban community with a rich manufacturing sector. During her first term, Stevens was assigned to the House Committee on Education and Labour and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where she also served as Chairwoman of the Research & Technology Subcommittee (a role she hopes to retain during her second term in office). Stevens was billed as supporting manufacturing on these committees, standing up for workers’ rights, and seeking to increase investment in critical research and development.
Working on U.S. manufacturing policy is being framed as one of the congresswoman’s top priorities. During the hour-long live event, it was clear that advanced manufacturing initiatives hit home for Stevens, who previously worked on the Obama administration’s advanced manufacturing and economic growth initiatives to create advanced manufacturing job opportunities located around southeastern Michigan.
Even more so, one-third of Michigan’s manufacturing jobs are concentrated in counties inside or adjacent to the 11th District, so any legislative project to help revitalize advanced manufacturing innovation would likely be celebrated. In her district, Stevens has a program called Manufacturing Mondays. She visits small companies, suppliers, makers, and training centers to see what companies are working on and the challenges they are facing. After visiting over 80 businesses and spending hours on shop floors with 3D printers, Stevens understands why local burgeoning sectors – like automotive, aerospace, and defence – are tied to the technology.
“The question is, what is our moonshot over the next 50 years?” pondered Stevens during her presentation. “It absolutely centers on our manufacturing and making capabilities, as well as the inspiring moment of make-and-buy in America, while still remaining connected to global supply chains and international markets that are demanding our products, innovation, talents, and capabilities.”
The priorities of the new Congress will be tied to the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, with negotiations for another economic relief package, which could include more resources to detect new strains of the virus and more funding for manufacturing and distributing the vaccines. According to Stevens, there is recognition of some interesting labor dynamics, including a fair number of people out of work and a recession skills gap, which needs to be addressed. But as the COVID-19 recovery phase moves along, the representative indicated that efforts from the AM sector – which gained so much prominence during the first months of the pandemic – will remain a congressional topic of discussion.
“When we evaluate the last year (2020), it’s a story of manufacturing, it’s a story of our capabilities to make and rise above the situation and to solve supply chain disruptions – which I know many of you were a part of,” outlined Stevens. “The suppliers along with our OES stepped up to supply PPE’s or to produce respirators and ventilators, and the manufacturing of vaccines.”
During the pandemic, manufacturers across the country stepped up to meet the industrial needs of essential workers, doctors, and nurses to keep them safe. Moreover, Stevens emphasized how Michigan’s manufacturing workforce showcased its capabilities by producing essential and potentially lifesaving equipment. Over 600 Michigan companies joined the fight against COVID-19, with automotive suppliers like Ford and GM producing tens of thousands of ventilators, distilleries making hand sanitizers, and other companies generating millions of masks and gowns. The efforts have paid off. In June, Michigan was one of three states “on track to contain COVID-19.”
Now, Stevens thinks it’s time to encourage existing and future members of the workforce to pursue manufacturing as a career. Excited to see Joe Biden’s campaign pledge seem to become a reality after the President signed the Buy American executive order less than a week after Inauguration Day, Congresswoman Stevens said she plans to partner with the administration on this initiative. Expected to force the federal government to buy more goods produced in the U.S. to revive domestic manufacturing, Buy American utilizes the government’s purchasing power to unleash and continue to unlock the procurement of “buying from American manufacturers,” increasing the domestic content requirement, moving to an inner agency approach to address the accountability and the use of waivers for domestic preference laws. As a nod to the AM industry, Stevens said she knows “many of you are waiting to get on that preferred vendor list.” The legislator could become an important ally to the 3D printing industry during her next two years in office.