The unemployment rate keeps improving in the US. The May unemployment rate indicated that payrolls were finally higher than  they were before the financial collapse in 2008. But the administration of US president Barack Obama wants to strengthen the US economy and job growth further, and has set out to reward communities that do so via its Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP), which begun in September 2013.

IMCP’s goal is to help communities in their integrated, long-term economic development strategies, to strengthen their competitive position to attract global manufacturers, boost US manufacturing and create jobs. The project taps the resources of 11 federal departments and agencies that have $1.3bn in economic development funds. They include the departments of commerce, labour, transportation, and housing and urban development, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration.

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In late May 2014, the Obama administration named 12 regions as recipients of special attention under the federal programme to further spur the effort. They are: south-west Alabama, led by the University of South Alabama; southern California, led by the University of Southern California Centre for Economic Development; north-west Georgia, led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission; the Chicago metro region, led by the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development; south Kansas, led by Wichita State University; the greater Portland region in Maine, led by the Greater Portland Council of Governments; south-eastern Michigan, led by the Wayne County Economic Development Growth Engine; the New York Finger Lakes region, led by the city of Rochester; south-western Ohio aerospace region, led by the city of Cincinnati; the Tennessee Valley, led by the University of Tennessee; the Washington Puget Sound region, led by the Puget Sound Regional Council, and the Milwaukee 7 region, led by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

The Chicago metro region, for example, is home to 3700 metals and machining companies. The region has formed an integrated strategy to strengthen its lead in metals and machining, leveraging other strengths that include transportation advantages such as its six Class 1 railroads, seven interstates, and the air cargo advantages at O’Hara International Airport.