Mayor Nutter signed an executive order Tuesday establishing a manufacturing task force to explore how to promote the sector in the city once known as the "Workshop of the World."

The task force will investigate the challenges area manufacturers face and recommend ways to make their businesses stronger and the region more competitive.

Despite the decline of industry in the city, Philadelphia is still home to more than 23,000 direct manufacturing jobs. The sector is experiencing something of a resurgence in the United States, with some jobs sent overseas now returning.

Nutter will appoint as many as 25 members of the task force in consultation with City Council and business leaders. The task force is to produce a report by Aug. 31.

Four cochairmen were named Tuesday: Councilman Bobby Henon, who was instrumental in establishing the task force; Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger; Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce chairman Dan Fitzpatrick; and Bill Hunt, chief executive officer of AgustaWestland Philadelphia, a helicopter supply firm.

Henon said the timing was right to boost an essential sector of the economy, one he described as the backbone of a stable middle-class lifestyle.

"I believe we can make our city great, create new jobs . . . and provide opportunities for people like me," he said, "neighborhood guys who just want to work hard and provide for their families."