Eric Holcomb & Gretchen Whitmer: Congress needs to pass innovation legislation soon

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint

Recently, the U.S. Congress took another step toward the passage of economic competitiveness and innovation legislation that would fight the chip crisis head on. The House and Senate named conferees that will begin reconciling provisions in the bills each chamber has passed. We hope they will move quickly to pass a final bill before the Fourth of July holiday.

While there are some differences to be worked out, dozens of governors across the country—Republicans and Democrats—overwhelmingly agree that federal action is critical not only to address the semiconductor shortage we all face but also to realign national research and economic development priorities and leapfrog our adversaries. A bipartisan agreement will show China, Russia, North Korea and the rest of the world that we are committed to strengthening our national security.

As governors of two powerful, productive manufacturing states, we know how critical the CHIPS legislation embedded in the package is to jump-start the domestic semiconductor industry. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs up and down the manufacturing supply chain across Indiana, Michigan and the entire Midwest that depend on a robust, reliable supply of chips. Bringing chip manufacturing back home is an important provision that must be included in the final version of the legislation.

Overall, the entire package includes provisions and funding that will change our nation’s trajectory for generations, unleashing the power of American innovation on our adversaries while building a stronger economy and well-paying jobs for our Hoosiers and Michiganders.

Indiana is proud to hold the distinction of being the most manufacturing-intensive state per capita, and Michigan will continue leading the future of mobility and innovation as the place that put the world on wheels a century ago. However, the worldwide chip shortage is disrupting many of our largest employers, including automakers, home appliance manufacturers, medical-device companies and high-tech defense firms.

Another critical element in the innovation bill and important for the Midwestern economy is the technical hubs to be implemented by the U.S. Department of Commerce. These hubs would be beacons of innovation, research and development and could level the playing field between the Midwest and coastal states with increased investment. Our world-class research universities would also be able to compete for research hubs that will contribute greatly to the regional ecosystem.

Training the microelectronics workforce for today and tomorrow is critical, and the Midwest is leading the way. NSWC Crane, located in Indiana, is leading that U.S. Department of Defense effort. SCALE program is a public-private-academic partnership coordinated by Purdue University and designed to develop a highly skilled domestic microelectronics workforce. Michigan is a top-five state in the nation with a large engineering, design and development workforce. In fact, employment in EDD industries is almost twice as concentrated in Michigan as the national average. The innovation legislation includes key provisions to build additional workforce capacity.

Manufacturing is the legacy business in the Midwest. Michigan is number one in the nation for auto manufacturing and has added 21,600 auto jobs in the last three years. The Great Lakes State is home to the Big Three American automakers, who are all taking bold steps to lead the future of mobility and electrification. They need a steady, reliable supply of mature node chips, which are especially important for electric vehicles. Next Level Jobs in Indiana includes a powerful advanced-manufacturing track dedicated to automation and robotics technology and, as a result, 20% of Hoosiers are working in advanced manufacturing—well above the national average.

With passage of the innovation bill, the Midwest is ready to jump into action to grow the semiconductor industry and build the innovation and technology economy of the future.•

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Holcomb, a Republican, is governor of Indiana. Whitmer, a Democrat, is governor of Michigan.

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