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Watchdog: Follow the Money

Commerce Department sees Rahm Emanuel's Chicago as a 'manufacturing center'

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U.S. Department of Commerce officials recently approved 12 communities across the nation to receive up to $1.3 billion in federal taxpayer funds, including Chicago, where former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is the mayor.

Designated as “manufacturing communities,” the Commerce Department stated that each region is part of a federal initiative to "help communities attract and expand private investment in the manufacturing sector and increase international trade and exports."

The announcement, part of an initiative launched by the Obama administration in December 2013, came a day before newly released economic data for the first quarter of 2014 revealed the U.S. economy shrank for the first time since 2011.

According to a May 29 Wall Street Journal report, manufacturing-job growth in the U.S. primarily concentrated in the Midwest and South after the 2008 recession. Yet the communities chosen as part of the Commerce Department's plan are spread out across the nation.

The regions include the Chicago metro region, Southwest Alabama, Southern California, Northwest Georgia, South Kansas, the Greater Portland region in Maine, the New York Finger Lakes region, Southeastern Ohio aerospace region, the Washington Puget Sound region, the Milwaukee 7 region, the Tennessee Valley and Southeastern Michigan, including Detroit.

The 12 communities were chosen by an "interagency panel," said the Commerce Department, out of 70 communities that applied for the program.

The White House plans a second competition later in the year to determine its next round of funding, as well as to convene the 70 communities that applied for funding so they can share best practices.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the 12 manufacturing communities "represent a diverse group of communities with the most comprehensive economic development plans to attract business investment that will increase their competitiveness."

Emanuel called the "designation of Chicago as a Manufacturing Community, eligible for up to $1.3 billion in funds from 11 federal agencies, a direct result of our work to bring the Digital Manufacturing Lab to Chicago, our investments in College to Career manufacturing training programs, and our success in attracting new manufacturers and jobs to Chicago."

Since assuming office in 2009, the Obama administration has advocated unabashedly for the use of government and taxpayer funds to fuel job creation and economic growth.

Taxpayer funds have been used by the administration to benefit the business interests of its political allies and campaign donors.

The mayor's office didn't return Watchdog.org's request for comment.

Josh Peterson is a reporter for Watchdog.org, which is affiliated with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.
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