Butte-Silver Bow has formalized its bid for a federally funded manufacturing hub that could draw tens of millions of dollars in public and private investments.
Butte is among dozens of U.S. cities trying to become one of 15 National Network Manufacturing Innovation Centers across the country. A few cities already have been chosen by President Barack Obama’s administration.
The others are to be selected later this year. The goal of the initiative is to close the gap between research and development and the technologies that drive domestic manufacturing.
Butte-Silver Bow government teamed with the Butte Local Development Corp., Montana Tech and other entities in putting the application together over the past several months.
Final touches were being put on the proposal Monday before an evening deadline.
Although specifics were not immediately available, Butte’s proposal focused on manufacturing and industrial sectors involved with developing natural resources — one of Montana’s strengths.
The threshold criteria for eligibility as one of the centers requires ranking in the top third in the nation under defined industrial clusters.
“Our approach will take advantage of Montana’s world-class supplies of vital materials/minerals needed for production of U.S. goods, as well as critical materials
needed for manufacturing of strategic products required for U.S. national security,” an executive summary of the
“In addition, Montana’s diversified energy portfolio (oil and gas, coal, renewables) is essential with providing affordable energy to support the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing,” it said.
Obama proposed the public-private innovation centers in 2012 and asked Congress to allocate $1 billion to open them. A pilot program in Youngstown, Ohio, partnered manufacturing companies and nonprofit organizations in a $70 million center.
Congress has not approved the overall funding request, but Obama has announced some money to start centers in Canton, Mich., Chicago and Raleigh, N.C.
Butte, through the BLDC, received a $200,000 federal grant last September to prepare its proposal. Some other cities also got grants to help them compete, but many are doing so without federal help.
Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Matt Vincent has traveled twice to Washington, D.C., in recent months, spending part of the visits trying to bolster Butte’s chances of landing one of the centers.
“We are going to define ours as a much larger area than most other proposals,” Vincent said before one D.C. trip in January. “That’s because we are the fourth-largest state and one of the most rural states … and you have to include all the areas our natural resources are found.”
The proposal includes development of a strategy to improve the natural resources industrial complex in Montana. It would involve workforce training, infrastructure development, research and innovation and access to capital, among other things.
Among partners that have committed to implementing the strategy, if the area is chosen, are the Montana Department of Commerce, U.S. Commercial Services, Montana University System, Idaho National Laboratory, Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, Montana Economic Development Association and NorthWestern Energy.
The industrial sectors supporting the effort include metal and nonmetallic mining and processing, coal production, oil and gas extraction and production, petroleum refining, cement production and steel product manufacturing.
- Reach Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-496-5511.