Purdue President Mitch Daniels with U.S. Sec. of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo Tuesday.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels with U.S. Sec. of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo Tuesday.
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

WEST LAFAYETTE - In an extraordinary confluence of power, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo gathered at Purdue University Tuesday morning to tour what was billed as an emerging "semi-conductor ecosystem" in what was described as a renewal opportunity for American manufacturing, research and development.

Asked by Purdue President Mitch Daniels what the development of the American semi-conductor ecosystem
would mean for the future, Sec. Blinken proclaimed, "You'll see a lasting recognition that America is back. I think if we get this right, which is not a guarantee, I think it does wonders for our standing around the world."

The U.S. cabinet secretaries were joined by Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, who authored and was a driving force behind the CHIPS and Science Act that was signed into law by President Biden in August. Sec. Raimondo described as a $50 billion investment that will provide $39 billion for advanced manufacturing and $11 billion for research and development.

"It will be the beginning of a new chapter of American manufacturing and research and development," Sec. Raimondo said after describing the tour of Purdue University this way: "This is what America needs. We've been blown away."

"This is bringing together universities, with the federal government to solve problems," said Sec. Raimondo. Sec. Blinken added, "If you need a jolt of optimism, it's all right here."

Gov. Eric Holcomb thanked the secretaries for the federal government "putting skin in the game" because it will allow Hoosier companies to take risks that might not have happened. He quoted Hoosier pioneer George Rogers Clark who said, "Great things can be accomplished by men and women well conducted."

"Sec. Blinken noted the multi-government effort," Holcomb said. "Harnessing not just the purpose, but the passion we all bring to bear is exciting."

Blinken responded, "Well conducted may be the perfect term."

Sen. Young noted that production at the General Motors plant in Fort Wayne had been shut down twice this year due to a shortage of semi-conductors. "The happy coincidence is what benefits our economic security benefits the industrial Midwest," Young said. Nodding to officials from the NSWC Crane High Energy Test Facility, Young add, "We're going to be able to saddle them up and get them in the game. Indiana is ready to go."

Raimondo turned to Daniels, asking, "Where do we go from here?"

Daniels responded, "Listening to the question and answers had me reflecting back. I'm near the end of 10 years here, but one of the first major speeches I was asked to give was at the National Academy of Engineers in 2013. At that time was the Augustine Report ... which said the single most important thing for the nation was to turn out at least 10,000 more engineers a year. I remember telling that audience, 'Purdue will speak for that first 7 or 8%. You folks figure out the rest.'"

"We've done that," Daniels said. "The governor mentioned our community college. We're offering our curriculum, all that applies to them, so they can produce associate degrees, many of those we hope will advance in bachelor degrees in semi-conductor technologies."

Daniels warned of the current labor shortage, which he said was "below what we thought was full employment."

Holcomb interjected, "2.6%." Daniels called that low jobless rate "unthinkable" just a few years ago.

Sec. Raimondo said that advanced manufacturing "is in your bones" and added that an ample supply of fresh water and the Midwest's research universities leaves the region "very well positioned. It ought to be a trend; it should be a trend. Are all opportunities on the coasts? No, they're right here."