Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton met with a number of small manufacturing companies in Syracuse, N.Y., on April 1. She outlined a plan she said would dissuade employers from retaining employees overseas. (Reuters)

Hillary Clinton announced a proposal for $10 billion in funds for manufacturing partnerships while campaigning at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central on Friday.

The proposal, which is an investment in "Make it in America Partnerships," is aimed at encouraging manufacturers both large and small to locate manufacturing jobs in the United States.

“There are a lot of voices in our country who don’t think we can bring manufacturing back,” Clinton said. “Well, I just disagree.”

Upstate New York, with its mix of manufacturing and rural towns, serves as the setting for both the announcement and a bulk of Clinton's campaigning in the state in the coming weeks, the campaign said.

The roundtable was one part reunion and one part testimonials by local business owners — from a wine ice-cream-maker to parts manufacturers — who gave their endorsement of Clinton based on her work as senator.

It’s the kind of session that the Clinton campaign hopes to recreate all across the state as it highlights her economic record in New York and use it to underscore her presidential platform.

"We absolutely believe that her work as senator in Upstate New York will serve as a blueprint for what she will do as president," said Clinton’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan in a call with reporters previewing the announcement.

"The campaign will really be highlighting how Hillary made a difference -- a real difference in people's lives," Sullivan added.

Even as she pitched the virtues of wine ice cream, Clinton took a few jabs at her opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. She criticized him for opposing the Export-Import Bank, which she said is critical to helping U.S. small businesses find markets for their products abroad.

She linked Sanders’s opposition to the Ex-Im Bank to the opposition of tea party Republicans in Washington.

“I just go crazy when I hear Sen. Sanders and the tea party Republicans railing against the Export-Import bank like its some kind of evil presence,” Clinton said. “In fact, it gives us a competitive advantage.”

“We’re going to look not only to make sure the Export-Import Bank is working were going to look for every tool we can possibly use to give that advantage to our manufacturers,” she added.

Sanders opposes the Export-Import Nank, which he regularly calls Boeing’s Bank, because of how much the multinational aerospace and defense contractor benefits from the program.

Earlier this year, Clinton announced a proposal that would penalize companies for shipping jobs overseas. According to Sullivan, the $10 billion manufacturing proposal will be paid for with the revenues from that "claw back" tax.

While most of the state's population density is downstate, particularly in New York City and the surrounding areas, Clinton's focus on the upstate region reflects a desire to shore up support in an area that may be a ripe target for Sanders.

New York will hold its primary on April 19, and both Sanders and Clinton said that the result will be pivotal in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Sanders has targeted voters in such states as Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin with a message that is critical of free-trade policies that are blamed for the loss of U.S. jobs to international competitors.

Upstate New York's demographics and economics are similar to those states, where the Sanders campaign believed it had a shot of winning — and in the case of Michigan, did win. And the region also boasts a fair number of college and university students, who overwhelmingly support Sanders.

But Clinton intends to deploy a New York-centered version of her broader argument against Sanders: that he lacks a track record to back up his rhetoric.

“People can tell you what they’re against all day long,” Clinton said. “What are they for? What are they going to do? Do they have a track record of getting results?

“At the end of the day, producing results is what it’s all about,” she added.

As she often does, Clinton reached for the legacy for former New York governor and senator DeWitt Clinton, whose gamble on the Erie Canal was knocked as “DeWitt’s Folly” in his time.

“Everybody thought it was a terrible idea!” Clinton said. “It opened up our country to commerce, it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution.”

“My goal in this campaign, and then as you president, if I am so fortunate, is to lift our sights again,” Clinton said. “This is not a partisan issue, this is about problem-solving."