West Valley City • U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said the Salt Lake area can serve as a model for how the country can create jobs, foster innovation and reinvigorate its manufacturing sector.
Blank offered her remarks Thursday after touring the Hexcel plant and meeting behind closed doors with company officials, community government leaders and state economic development officials.
Hexcel manufacturers carbon fibers used in high-strength composite structures in commercial aerospace, space and defense and industrial applications. The company, which employs some 700 people at its West Valley plant, is one of the key cogs in the state's growing composites industry drawing praise from Blank as an example of government's strategic role in nurturing the private sector.
West Valley City Mayor Michael Winder said Blank's visit to the Hexcel plant also is an opportunity for the Salt Lake Valley to get national attention for the success it has achieved in promoting manufacturing.
"We are a community that gets it," Winder said. "What we are doing here is impressive and noteworthy on a national level."
Years ago, Blank said, economic development leaders saw the potential for good jobs in advanced composites, in the context of Utah's growing aviation industry.
"They also saw that highly-skilled workers were coming out of Utah's colleges and universities,'' she said. ``And with the help of the Commerce Department Utah's budding composites industry began to raise its visibility at trade shows abroad.''
Today, the state has more than 20 advanced composite companies employing more than 10,000 workers, she said. "It's clear those early decisions are paying off. People are finding good jobs here, helping lift middle-class families back into prosperity after a deep recession."
She noted that under President Obama's proposed budget, the Commerce Department would provide $113 million in funding support matched with funds from local public and private sources to co-invest in key projects that can help attract manufacturers and build supply chains.
Projects could include new research or science parks, a major physical infrastructure improvement or a workforce development initiative, she said.
"We'll be looking for communities that can leverage our various resources and funding opportunities to help win that next big business investment from a manufacturer," she said.
Although Obama's budget proposal was widely declared "dead on arrival" when submitted to Congress, Blank said she hopes the Commerce Department's initiative will be viewed as important enough by both Republicans and Democrats that it will receive widespread bi-partisan support.