AUBURN, AL – NOVEMBER 20, 2016: Ricardo Acevedo, plant manager at General Electric’s Auburn facility, stands outside the newly built plant in Auburn's West Technology Park. Acevedo says GE chose Auburn in 2014 as their first site to use 3D printing to make high-volume products because it could count on an educated workforce and include the university as a partner in research. Currently GE is printing 50,000 jet engine nozzles a year using 30 3D printing machines, with intentions of doubling the machines in 2017. “We need to understand the properties of the metal powder to get more consistent results,” Acevedo said.
In much of the United States, global trade and technological innovation has failed to produce the prosperity hoped for by political and business leaders. Yet despite formidable economic challenges, some localities are flourishing. In Lee County, Ala., unemployment is below the national average despite the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs, and the key to the county’s resilience may be Auburn University, which provided a steady source of employment during recessions and helped draw new businesses to replace those that fled. CREDIT: Bob Miller for The Wall Street Journal