PAWTUCKET – Amid the humming and clanking of dozens of machines twirling scores of spools of various textiles at the North East Knitting Company, an old red-brick factory on Conant Street, 1st District Rep. David Cicilline unveiled another version of his Make it in America Manufacturing Act.
The idea behind the legislation, which Cicilline says is similar to a bill he introduced two years ago, is “to help the competitiveness of manufacturers and to provide them with critical resources to address the skills gap that can hinder growth in this industry, to increase exports and domestic supply chains, improve energy efficiency and to retool and expand their facilities to succeed in a 21st Century economy.”
In a bow to the host of his midday press conference, Cicilline said, “Companies like North East Knitting are performing faster and producing higher quality goods than their international competitors, and they were able to get this edge through investment in new machines, a skilled workforce and lots of determination.”
Alex DaRosa, vice president of North East Knitting, which provides materials for the apparel, medical and defense industries, told reporters, “We are very excited about Congressman Cicilline’s Make it in America Manufacturing Act. “While many of our competitors have already set up plants outside the United States, we are still 100 percent U.S.A. made and are proud of this fact. We label each of our cartons, “Proudly Made in the USA.”
The legislation would allocate grant funds through the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Labor to establish a revolving loan fund that would make low-interest loans to manufacturers to
establish, retool, retrofit, or expand manufacturing facilities; improve energy or process efficiency; access new markets, grow export capabilities, and facilitate new domestic supply chain connections, and perform other activities authorized by the Secretaries of Commerce and Labor for the purpose of carrying out a manufacturing enhancement strategy.
Funds could also be used to award grants to not-for-profit third parties, such as community colleges, to provide on-the-job and off-site training, create apprenticeship programs, and support training and education initiatives that align with employer demand and result in industry-recognized credentials. Not-for-profit third parties can also receive grant funding to provide technical assistance to manufacturers to help them access new international markets to boost exports, as well as identify and pursue new opportunities for domestic supply chain connections and additional new markets.
James Brett, president of the New England Council, an industry group that advocates and lobbies for New England manufacturers in Washington, DC, said that, with Cicilline’s legislation, “we could see 8,000 new jobs that an average of $80,000 a year. And 8,000 jobs could be created annually in New England.
“Manufacturing is a very, very significant portion of New England’s economy,” Brett added. “Here in Rhode Island, over 40,000 people are employed in manufacturing with an average salary of $62,000.”
Cicilline’s bill, he said, “is just the kind of investment and support that manufacturers in New England and our nation need to continue to grow and create these jobs.”
Raymond Fogarty, director of the John H. Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University, said, “In a state our size, if we can’t do it no one can. I think we already have all the pieces in place to do it.”
Barney Heath, acting director of Pawtucket’s Department of Planning and Redevelopment told The Times, “This is great, the possibility of more manufacturing is great for the city. It means more jobs, more industry, more use of buildings that are vacant and abandoned. There’s nothing not to like about this, for Pawtucket or for America.”
David Carlin of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce Coalition, agreed.
“Northern Rhode Island has probably the strongest history in the state of providing good manufacturing jobs. Just like the congressman said, “we believe there is a strong future, not only in northern Rhode Island, but in the state and the United States for manufacturing. Legislation like this would be great for workforce development opportunities and on-the-job training, which we are concentrating on at the state level. It fits in very well with what the chamber is supporting.”