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Top Md. Democrat: Manufacturing agenda would unite both parties

The anger many working-class voters feel about their economic prospects and the role that rage has played in national politics isn’t lost on Rep. Steny Hoyer.

Hoyer, in a speech on Monday during the ceremonial opening of The Foundery, a maker space in Baltimore’s Port Covington, portrayed the House Democrats’ “Make it in America” plan as a bipartisan approach to encourage manufacturing and create more jobs in the United States.

“We’ve seen over the last 10 months how frustrated and indeed angry people are. Many people may be working full-time, but they’re still struggling to make ends meet and have come to see the American Dream as slipping farther and farther out of their reach,” Hoyer said.

These people, Hoyer said, are worried their children and grandchildren won’t be able to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle. Hoyer, the House Democratic Whip, also said those workers don’t feel government is making the situation better.

The remarks follow presidential primary races where real estate developer Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, launched popular campaigns largely propelled by citizens who believe their economic outlook is dimming.

That feeling has been especially pronounced among blue-collar workers who blame trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Act, for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States.

The first version of the “Make it in America” plan dates back six years. It aims to enact policies supporters say will encourage entrepreneurship, close the skills gap among American workers and break down barriers to manufacturing in the country.

“One of the reasons I think this agenda is so important is it is not ideological and (is) nonpartisan. Everybody in the Congress of the United States will say they want to … manufacture goods here in this country, and that they want Americans to make it, every one of them,” Hoyer said.

The Foundery is a 20,000-square-foot maker space that allows entrepreneurs access to state-of-the-art industrial tools, educational opportunities and workforce development, through a model similar to joining a gym.

“It’s what hipsters call a garage,” The Foundery Executive Director Jason Hardebeck said jokingly when explaining the definition of a maker space.

The Foundery is in a larger manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship hub called City Garage. Sagamore Development Co., a real estate development firm backed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, converted the former city bus depot into a 130,000-square-foot hub for startups. Companies based in the building include skateboard manufacturer Bustin Boards Skateboard Co.

City Garage is set to be home to Under Armour Lighthouse, also called Project Glory, which will house efforts by the company to find a way to manufacture apparel and footwear locally.

Hoyer and Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes praised the role The Foundery and City Garage could play in bringing manufacturing jobs back to the Baltimore area.

“Once again Baltimore is ready to lift itself out of hard times and build a better future for all its people, including those who have not always shared in its prosperity,” Hoyer said.


About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.