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September 22, 2014

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President singles out Las Vegas entrepreneur as new wave of nation’s makers gathers at White House

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Amber Phillips

Jen McCabe, founder of Las Vegas startup factory Factorli, and Ali Sheppard, strategic ops and design at Factorli, pose in their booth at a manufacturing fair staged at the White House by President Barack Obama on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

It’s not every day a Las Vegas resident gets a shoutout from the president.

But today, President Barack Obama singled out entrepreneur Jen McCabe as a key player in a new wave of manufacturers who Obama says are democratizing the process for anyone who wants to be an inventor.

McCabe and her business partner, Ali Sheppard, were part of a group of inventors and manufacturers invited today to the White House to show off what they can build with the latest manufacturing technology, such as 3-D printers and robots.

The president is promoting high-tech manufacturing as one of the bright spots in America’s struggling economy.

“New tools and technologies are making the building of things easier than ever,” he said.

Las Vegas could be the center for what Obama calls “a revolution … in American manufacturing.”

McCabe is starting construction Monday on a 25,000-square-foot high-tech factory in the Arts District in downtown Las Vegas.

Officially called Factorli, the factory’s aim is to help inventors small and large to take their ideas to the next step using state-of-the-art equipment. The factory will be able to produce anything “with plastic and a circuit board,” McCabe said.

The president, who took a virtual tour of Factorli, described it this way:

“It’s kind of like Kinkos, only instead of printing fliers, they’re going to be able to print custom parts for their new products,” he said in a speech.

The goal is to lower the barrier of entry into this new world of high-tech manufacturing, McCabe said. She jumped into the manufacturing world with nothing but an English degree when she built a robot in 2011 after traveling to China to learn how to make it. The process was surprisingly easy, she said, so she decided to create the same kind of incubator back home in Las Vegas.

“You’ve heard of starter homes,” she said. “Factorli is kind of like your starter factory. There should be something between a 3-D printer and China, and that’s Factorli.”

And the manufacturing sector of the economy is growing as a result of people like McCabe, Obama said. He said the sector was adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.

"It gives you the sense that we are at the dawn of something big," he said.

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