5 Things Obama Learned About Product Innovation That Inspired Him

In his recent visit to Cleveland this past March, President Barack Obama stopped by the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) facilities to see what products were being created and developed by local manufacturers in Northeast Ohio. Obama was pleasantly surprised to see how these start-ups were creating innovations in a wide variety of fields, from medicine to aviation, right in the heart of Ohio.

Here’s what Obama learned in his visit:

Whiskey is being made faster than ever



Obama spoke with Tom Lix, CEO of Cleveland Whiskey and creator of a method that combines temperature and pressure control to make bourbon within six months (rather than the usual eight to 12 year period) that tastes just as good as the competition.

“I love Kentucky bourbon, but apparently this gets made a lot quicker,” Obama noted about Lix’s product. He couldn’t taste test Cleveland Whiskey then as he had a speech to deliver later that day, but he made sure to get his own bottle to take home.


Cleveland Whiskey CEO Tom Lix entertains questions about his company from President Obama, making sure that Obama also went home with a sample of his product. Credit: Joshua Gunter/ Northeast Ohio Media Group


The human skull can be repaired via prosthesis

It isn’t typical for the U.S. President to handle a human skull, but in this case Obama was shown how our craniums can be corrected using the latest computer technology. Dorothy C. Baunach, CEO of the medical device firm OsteoSymbionics, displayed their craniofacial implant products, a line of custom plastic prosthetics that are used to repair skull injuries. OsteoSymbionics’ product line is already used in dozens of top hospitals around the country, including the Cleveland Clinic.

Fuel alternatives are coming up in creative ways

Vadxx Energy CEO Jim Garrett show President Obama the product of his plastic to energy process. Credit: Joshua Gunter/ Northeast Ohio Media Group

Obama also spoke with Jim Garrett, CEO of Vadxx Energy, and Jeff Schick of EcoChem about the next generation of fuel alternatives. Garrett explained to Obama how Vadxx can make fuel out of plastic waste, essentially turning trash into gas. Shick then showed Obama samples of EcoChem’s High Performance Clean Diesel, which will increases the number of miles per gallon for bus fleets that typically use a lot of fuel. Shick pointed out that EcoChem is working with NASA and the Department of Defense, to which Obama replied, “Yeah, we use a lot of fuel.”

Students are helping to push innovation forward


Obama talks shop with mechanical engineering interns from Cleveland State University (L-R): Donald Jackson, Chris Brabenec and Nate Palsa. Credit: Joshua Gunter/ Northeast Ohio Media Group


Obama chatted with three students from Cleveland State University who are shop workers at MAGNET’s facilities. Donald Jackson, Chris Brabenec and Nate Palsa, all mechanical engineering majors, explained to Obama their work and future aspirations.

These students are a part of a MAGNET-CSU internship program, one of several MAGNET initiatives to help build tomorrow’s workforce. Similar work comes from Ohio Dream it. Do it, who work to bridge the skills and education gap in the manufacturing workforce through career ambassador programs for young students and educational tours for high schoolers, among other efforts.

Northeast Ohio holds the model for American business today

Amid the excitement of his tour and all of the hands-on experiences presented to him, Obama made an important observation about how the efforts of these start-ups and MAGNET show the direction that the United States and its businesses need to take.

While touring MAGNET’s facilities, Obama remarked, “This is a great example of how public-private partnership has created American business, employed Americans, and started to export – and we want to see if we can duplicate this across the board.”

Later, in his speech to the City Club of Cleveland, Obama announced that nearly $500 million in new public and private investment would be made for American manufacturing. This would directly benefit MAGNET’s start-ups and create more opportunities for other product manufacturers like them. About MAGNET, Obama added in his speech, “This partnership is bringing manufacturing jobs back to Cleveland. If something’s working, why would we want to get rid of it?”

It is clear that Obama has a plan to improve American business and his intentions were further bolstered by what he learned firsthand from these start-up leaders.



Posted by Cody White in Innovation, News

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