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Ill., Mich. Politicians Tout Manufacturing Labs

By JIM SUHR

ST. LOUIS (AP) a¿¿ Top politicians in Illinois joined local leaders in Michigan in trumpeting as a coup news that their states have landed a part in what they consider a revolutionary effort to boost manufacturing innovation, seeded by $140 million from federal taxpayers.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the weekend announced Chicago's selection as eventual home to the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute touted last month in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. A second institute will be located in Canton, Mich., near Detroit.

Obama, a Chicagoan, is expected to officially announce the $320 million initiative Tuesday at the White House. The Pentagon is contributing $70 million to each of the Illinois and Michigan sites, with the remainder being contributed by states, including $16 million from Illinois, and outside interests that include corporations and universities.

It was not immediately clear Sunday how many jobs may be created by the initiatives or when those regional hubs could begin work.

The initiative's Chicago prong bound for the city's Goose Island will push high-tech digital manufacturing and design under the premise that virtual environments may supplant drafting tables as keys to innovation. Illinois officials insisted that lab, led by nonprofit UI Labs, will be the nation's flagship research institute in digital manufacturing, ostensibly bolstering the Defense Department's efficiencies along the way.

"This solidifies Chicago's place as the epicenter of the digital manufacturing revolution that will create thousands of jobs here and make our city the place where the greatest 21st-century innovations are born," Emanuel said. "This cutting-edge digital lab will ensure that the City of Big Shoulders remains the City of Big Discoveries for years to come."

Durbin, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, added that the initiative "has the potential to revolutionize the way the United States approaches manufacturing."

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