Despite all the flack he is taking, President Obama appears to be making a genuine effort to increase America's role in worldwide production and manufacturing capabilities. As part of the Recovery Act State Energy Program, ZBB Energy Corporation has received $1.3 million in loans to fund a $4.5 million factory renovation, which will triple its capacity to manufacture flow batteries and power systems. As a result, the company has been able to retain a dozen workers and will hire 80 more over time.
ZBB manufactures crucial components used in the building of smart energy grids and commercialized electric vehicles. America is currently lacking on the advanced battery production front. Andy Grove, former Intel CEO and Time Magazine's Man of the Year, recently commented in a July issue of Business Week on America's dismal manufacturing capabilities and what that means to America:
Without an existing manufacturing base for new and popular technologies, America will never be able to compete internationally and our economy will continue to suffer. Fortunately, during the President's visit to ZBB Company in Wisconsin, President Obama made clear that he understands this problem.
"I just want everybody to understand --just a few years ago, American businesses could only make 2 percent of the world's advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles -- 2 percent. In just a few years, we'll have up to 40 percent of the world's capacity," Obama said. "For years, we've heard about manufacturing jobs disappearing overseas. Well, companies like [ZBB] are showing us how manufacturing can come back right here in the United States of America""
The president also said that the Recovery Act State Energy Program is expected to generate 800,000 jobs in the clean energy sector by 2012. A key aspect of the Recovery Act State Energy Program is the investment in a nation-wide high-speed rail system. Much like the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 signed by Abraham Lincoln, this has the potential to fuel jobs across the country and connect America in a way never seen. Is anyone else excited about the prospect of an alternative to airline travel?
Regardless of your political leanings, it is difficult to argue against an investment in America's manufacturing infrastructure. American workers have suffered, and will continue to suffer, with the absence of a large and competitive manufacturing base. While taking a direct role in the investment of clean energy industries is a significant step forward, we need to incentivize producers, in general, to stay in America.