I recently introduced the Global Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing Act with my colleague from Colorado, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, to expand the national network of Manufacturing USA institutes that are working to keep the U.S. on the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing.

When I take the Amtrak train from Wilmington to Washington, D.C., I pass by a site that both haunts and inspires me. It’s the site of the former Chrysler plant in Newark.

For years, that plant was a pillar of Delaware’s economy. As recently as 2000, it employed 3,000 high-skilled, high-wage Chrysler workers building new Dodge Durangos. In turn, those employees were able to support their families, buy houses and cars, and keep our local economy strong.

Today, though, that plant is gone – a reflection of the global economic changes that have shaken communities across our country.

The loss of that plant hit Delaware hard, but, in a testament to our state’s initiative and resilience, that site is now home to something called a Manufacturing USA Institute, where a different kind of manufacturing has taken hold.

At that same site in Newark, medical researchers in the new National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) are hard at work, developing, testing, and innovating ways to make lifesaving and life-improving medicines of the future.

NIIMBL is a public-private partnership funded by $70 million dollars in federal funding and matched by another $129 million from industry and private sector. The institute is only in its second year of operation, and has already attracted 115 members from industry, academia, and non-profits spanning over 20 states across the U.S. The best companies and universities in the biopharmaceutical field are organizing through Delaware to develop vaccines, gene therapies, and cancer drugs that will result in life saving cures that we and our loved ones will benefit from one day. These innovations will not only save lives, but they will also provide jobs for Delawareans who will manufacture those medical innovations.

Unfortunately, though, if Congress does not update this program, Delaware’s Manufacturing USA institute will miss out on vital federal funding it needs.

So, to build on the success we’ve already seen with Manufacturing USA Institutes, I recently introduced the Global Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing Act with my colleague from Colorado, Republican Senator Cory Gardner, to expand the national network of Manufacturing USA institutes that are working to keep the U.S. on the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing. This bill will also enable NIIMBL to keep competing for federal dollars, just as the other 13 institutes around the country are currently able to do.

The idea behind the bill is simple: we know that Manufacturing USA Institutes work. They help ensure that the United States isn’t just keeping up with the changing economy, but that we’re leading it.

In fact, I believe that we have to expand the program to ensure that American manufacturers can succeed in the face of foreign competition, particularly from China. The Chinese seem to agree – they’ve essentially copied our Manufacturing USA Institutes model in their “Made in China 2025” plan, which includes the creation of 40 advanced manufacturing hubs to compete with the U.S. program.

If we don’t remain committed to supporting American manufacturing, China will out-invest the United States in this area, and we cannot afford to let that happen. If we continue to invest in manufacturing, though, we can ensure that the 21st Century technologies used around the world are American-designed and American-made. That’s why our bipartisan bill doesn’t just double down on Manufacturing USA Institutes, but also strengthens their role in helping to train Americans in advanced manufacturing skills.

The experts project that new technology will lead to 3.5 million new jobs over the next decade, and we want those jobs to be in the United States. To do that, we need to ensure that our workforce has advanced manufacturing skills and industry-recognized certifications.

This is not a Democratic or a Republican challenge, it’s an American one. If we work together, we can build on our country’s proud manufacturing legacy and continue to develop and manufacture the medicines, technologies, and products the world will rely on this century and beyond.

Chris Coons represents Delaware in the U.S. Senate.