LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville is one of the prime players in a consortium of Midwestern universities and companies selected to participate in a Chicago-based advanced manufacturing institute.

"It is like winning the national championship in engineering," said a smiling Neville Pinto, the dean of the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

"It is going to elevate our visibility, both nationally and internationally," said Pinto.

The U.S. Department of Defense is contributing $70 million to the program. It will also include money from private industry, from companies like General Electric.

Adds Pinto, "We will work together to create new jobs through the invention of new technologies that will impact the way we do things, our efficiencies, and the way we compete internationally."

Dean Pinto says what is learned will not only be applied to big manufacturing companies, but to small ones as well.

U of L will work with the University of Illinois at Chicago, which will lead the initiative.

It will be called the Manufacturing and Design Institute.

"We are seeing something of a manufacturing renaissance in the U. S. right now," said Speed School Mechanical Engineering Professor Glen Prater, "driven by lower energy prices and a growing recognition of just how important making things is to the health of the modern economy."

The Speed School has been at the forefront of working with industry. Locally, it has formal programs with both Ford and GE -- and preliminary site work is underway on a 39-acre research park located behind the Speed School.

"It is important to note this is a five-year grant," said Prater, "so we do expect the buildings to be up before the grant is over."

And Prater says it is the intent to have the new initiative eventually become a self-sustaining enterprise.

"It will have an enormous impact on the economy of the region and for the state of Kentucky," said Pinto.

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