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  About MEP

Leadership Biographies


Carroll A. Thomas, Director

Carroll ThomasMs. Carroll A. Thomas was selected as the Director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) in April 2015. In her role as Director, Ms. Thomas is responsible for a nationwide network of centers to help U.S. manufacturers compete globally, supporting greater supply chain integration and providing access to technology. MEP is a $300 million public-private partnership program leveraging federal support by teaming with industry as well as state and local organizations. With over 400 manufacturing extension offices located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, MEP provides companies with services and access to resources that enhance growth, improve productivity and expand capacity.

Prior to being selected as the MEP Director, Ms. Thomas was appointed as the Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) in November 2012. At SBA, Ms. Thomas was responsible for program and policy development, implementation and oversight of the $113 million grants program that funds the Small Business Development Centers located in every state plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands in more than 900 service locations.

From 2000 – 2012, Ms. Thomas served as Program Manager for Supplier Scouting and as Partnership Catalyst at MEP. She implemented pilots to support Buy America procurement provisions by matching U.S. manufacturers with opportunities from publically-funded projects and co-founded the Interagency Network of Enterprise Assistance Providers. Earlier in her career, Ms. Thomas was a small business retail franchise owner; negotiated product deals with over 23,000 U.S. inventors and small manufacturers for electronic retailer QVC and managed marketing efforts for the National Gallery of Art’s vast reproduction portfolio.

With more than 30 years of entrepreneurial and small business development experience, her accomplished public/private sector career demonstrate her leadership expertise as a catalyst for creating innovative partnerships and advocating economic development by supporting dynamic small business ecosystems.

Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Leadership Washington and a former Regional Director of the Fashion Group International of Greater Washington, DC. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Drexel University and a Master of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University.


Dave Cranmer, Deputy Director

Dave CranmerDave Cranmer is the Deputy Director of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). With MEP since 1993, he has overseen extension centers, conducted research on innovation, new product and service development and deployment, supply chains, technology roadmapping, eBusiness and exporting, built a business-to-business marketing consulting practice for smaller manufacturers, established specialty consulting practices in financial access, eBusiness. technology scouting and technology-driven market intelligence (TDMI). He has also worked on the formation of technology collaboratives using TDMI and a set of business-to-business network pilot projects for the MEP System. He is the current government representative on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Devices Good Manufacturing Practice Advisory Committee.

Dave joined NIST in November 1986, and has held positions as a scientific researcher in glass and ceramics; supervisory ceramic engineer for mechanical properties in the Ceramics Division; program analyst and senior program analyst in the Office of the Director of NIST; and Associate Director of Program Planning and Policy, Industrial Marketing Systems Manager, eBusiness Product Line Manager, Strategic Partnerships Manager, Senior Researcher and Regional Account Manager within MEP, in addition to his current position. During 1991-92, he was a Commerce Science and Technology Fellow serving as a policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Prior to joining NIST, he was a member of the technical staff at the Aerospace Corporation from 1984 until 1986, conducting R&D on properties of glass and ceramics for tribological and space applications, and a member of the technical staff at the Bendix Corporation’s Advanced Technology Center, conducting R&D on tribological properties of ceramics for automotive and aerospace applications. Dave holds a Ph.D. and S.M., both in ceramics from M.I.T., a B.S. in ceramic science from Penn State (cum laude), and an M.B.A. from Heriot-Watt University. He is a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society, and a member of Keramos and Sigma Xi. He is a co-holder of two U.S. patents, and has published over 50 papers and edited one book.

He is also the President and CEO of Phase 3 Consulting LLC, and Vice-President and Acting Executive Director of CIMNE-USA, a non-profit focused on computer modeling and simulation to solve complex engineering problems. Phase 3, founded in 2001, provides business-to-business marketing, marketing and technology management, and technology evaluation services to small and mid-size companies. CIMNE-USA was founded in 2009.


J. Chancy Lyford, Executive Officer

Male AvatarJ. Chancy Lyford has been the Executive Officer of the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership program since November 2015. Prior to his current appointment, he served for four years as the Deputy Associate Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Small Business Development Centers.  Prior to his appointment as the Program’s Deputy, Chancy worked for twelve years as a Program Manager where he held a portfolio with oversight responsibility of more than $30 million in federal funds.  During his tenure as a Program Manager, he was called upon to establish and implement an entire office reengineering plan as (Acting) Deputy Assistant Administrator within SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership.  Since 1998, Chancy served in various roles at SBA, including Chief of Staff to the Deputy Administrator, Senior Advisor in the Office of Policy, and as a Public Affairs Officer.

Prior to joining the SBA, Chancy spent time in the private sector working as an account executive with Ketchum Public Relations in San Francisco where he managed multiple accounts, including Levi’s, Visa and Visa International.  For ten years before moving to San Francisco, Chancy was Press Secretary for former Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers. He was instrumental in the passage of legislation creating both the SBA’s Microloan Program and the SBA’s Women’s Business Center Program.  Mr. Lyford holds a combined B.A. in English literature from Hendrix College in Arkansas and St. Peter’s College, Oxford University.


Margaret Phillips, Director of Center Operations

Margaret PhillipsMs. Phillips is the Center Operations Director where she leads the team of Federal Program Officers (FPOs) responsible for providing financial and programmatic oversight for all Federal funding awarded to support the MEP mission.  Ms. Phillips and the Center Operations Team work closely with MEP Centers to provide cooperative agreement and operational assistance and guidance. The Center Operations Group works closely with NIST MEP’s cadre of Regional Managers and the NIST Grants Management Division (GMD) in supporting the MEP System of Centers.

Prior to rejoining the MEP in 2015, Ms. Phillips held a variety of program management positions throughout NIST beginning in 1995, including the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, the Materials Measurement Laboratory, the Technology Innovation Program, Advanced Technology Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program.

Prior experience includes 5 years with Lawrence Associates, Inc. in Dayton, OH, a consulting and technical services firm. Ms. Phillips managed the firm's technology transfer division, working with DOD laboratories to design and implement technology transfer strategies and activities.  Additionally, Ms. Phillips served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years, in a variety of acquisition, program management, contracting and manufacturing related duties.

Education includes a BS and MS in Chemistry, an MBA in Acquisition and Contracting, and a JD.


Zara Brunner, Acting Manager of Communications

ZBrunnerZara Brunner is the Acting Manager of the Communications Team and joined MEP in 2011.  The team handles internal and external communications about the program and its nationwide network of centers, which includes outreach efforts focused on highlighting MEP accomplishments and positioning the program as a resource for manufacturers. These responsibilities involve communications to a variety of stakeholders and customers through multiple channels, including MEP’s Manufacturing Innovation blog, social media outlets, website, news articles and press releases, email newsletters, success stories, infographics, conference presentations, digital collaboration tools and videos.  Mrs. Brunner also helps to lead the national Manufacturing Day campaign with industry partners.

Previously she was with the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, after holding multiple business management and marketing positions in the corporate and legal sectors for ten years.  Mrs. Brunner received her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science (with honors) in 1994. 


Mike Simpson, Director of System Operations

Mike SimpsonMr. Simpson is the Director of System Operations.  As the leader of System Operations, he and his team are responsible for engaging the Leadership and Staff of the MEP System of Centers in a strategic dialog as it relates to improving the competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturers.   His team engages regularly with MEP Center Leadership, including the Boards of Directors, providing them with knowledge and manufacturing best practices.  Also, his team is responsible for deploying key strategic manufacturing competitiveness initiatives in areas such as Top Line Growth (e.g. ExporTech), Sustainability (e.g. E3 and GSN), Continuous Improvement (e.g. Lean and Quality) and Financing.   Many of these initiatives are developed and deployed collaboratively with other public, private, and not-for-profit organizations.

Since Joining MEP in 1994, Mr. Simpson has led several other divisions in MEP, including Information Systems and Center Operations.  Prior to joining the Department of Commerce, he was an Engineer and Information Technology consultant to the nuclear power industry, working with U.S. energy companies to develop systems to reconstitute the design basis of existing nuclear power plants as well as preparing documentation to relicense existing operations. Prior to that he served as an officer on-board the nuclear submarine USS John Adams, which was home based in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Simpson received an MBA focused on the Management of Innovation, Science and Technology in 1995 from The George Washington University and a BS in Chemical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1984.


Mark Troppe, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Program Development

Mark TroppeMr. Troppe is the Director of Partnerships and Program Development (PPD) where he leads a team responsible for working with MEP Centers, federal, state and industry partners to develop and deploy programs and services to help manufacturers enhance their competitiveness. These include efforts to: accelerate technology adoption by SMEs, deliver supply chain optimization services, connect manufacturers with potential suppliers, address workforce issues, and support manufacturing clusters.  Mark and the PPD team play an important role in MEP’s initiatives for transforming manufacturing in the U.S. 

Mr. Troppe has held a variety of economic and workforce development positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. In addition to nearly 13 years at NIST MEP, in 2009-2010, Mr. Troppe worked with the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers. From 2000-2007, he worked at the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) as Director of Economic and Workforce Development. At NCEE Mark wrote about, developed courses, and delivered training on the nature of and opportunities for effective collaboration between workforce and economic development organizations. Prior jobs included Director of Training for US Web’s internet hosting division and Director of a nonprofit program (Kids and the Power of Work, KAPOW) that promoted career awareness with elementary school youth. Mr. Troppe started his career as a Presidential Management Intern, working for ten years in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.


Ken Voytek, Chief of Manufacturing Policy and Research

Ken VoytekMr. Voytek is the team leader for the Manufacturing Policy and Research group as well as the Chief Economist with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). He has previously held senior research positions at the Urban Institute, the Michigan Department of Commerce, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Alliance of Business, and Goodwill Industries International.  His work has appeared in Economic Development Quarterly, Government and Policy, Social Science Quarterly, and the Georgetown Law Review as well as in several books and book chapters.  He earned his BA in economics (with honors) from St. Edward’s University and an MA from West Virginia University and is currently working on his PhD in Public Policy and Administration.