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Southeast Region: How Do I Love Thee, Let Us Count the Ways

Southeast Region – How Do I Love Thee, Let Us Count the Ways

The MEP National Network’s Southeast region comprises seven coastal states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana), inland Tennessee, and the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Geographically, we share majestic coastal plains, the Piedmont Plateau, Appalachian Mountains, and sandy beaches from the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf Coast, and the Caribbean Sea. Our food is rich in tradition, internationalism, and ethnicity. It includes seafood, fine pastries such as beignets, biscuits, lechón a la vara (roasted pork on a stick), po’ boys, congrí (mixed rice and black beans), and other healthy delicacies. The region’s population of approximately 66 million people accounts for about 20 percent of the U.S. population.

MEP National Network Map

Figure 1: The MEP National Network

The Business Landscape

The Southeast Region features a unique business landscape due to its proximity and access to the coast. The region generated over $2.8 trillion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014, with approximately 13.3 percent from the manufacturing sector (~$380 billion)1. There are approximately 65,000 manufacturers in this region with a total of more than 2 million paid employees. The diverse tier 1 manufacturing industries in the region include fabricated metal product, high tech, wood, machinery, nonmetallic mineral, food, printing and chemical. There is a strong overlap of the different industry sectors between the states where five to six states share the same industries. In addition, the region is well known for its “Automotive and Aerospace Industry Alleys.” The former includes 300,000+ employees, 14 OEM’s and 1,120 manufacturers and suppliers.

Last but not least, the Southeast includes two Department of Energy-sponsored Manufacturing USA Institutes in Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as a wide variety of national laboratories and programs with outstanding research capabilities. In collaboration with MEP Centers, these programs strengthen the capabilities of the manufacturing ecosystem, as well as complement and support small, medium, and emerging companies.

Strong Manufacturing Presence

A few examples of the region’s strong manufacturing presence include:

  • Sandersville, Georgia, the “Kaolin Capital of the World.” Kaolin is a white, alumina-silicate clay used in hundreds of products ranging from paper to cosmetics to the nose cones of rockets.
  • UTC Aerospace in Foley, Alabama, was picked as one of the country's best plants.
  • North Carolina is competing nationally and globally as a leader in animal processing and packaging. It is also emerging in a number of other high-value food related sectors, including beverages, nuts, snacks, and animal feed.
  • If Georgia were a country, it would be the seventh largest producer of chicken.
  • In just 10 years, GE Aviation has spent more than $1.5 billion to bring advanced ceramic matrix composites CMC technology to market with a significant share in the Southeast, including in Alabama.
  • 85 percent of carpet produced in the U.S. is from Northwest Georgia.

Success Stories

Almost every week, the region generates one success story documenting the impact from the services that were provided. For example: 

  • ESCO's Newton, Mississippi, facility required an expansion to meet the company's sales requirements. The Innovate Mississippi team created a revised layout for the plant expansion that incorporated improvements to minimize obstacles in ESCO's production process. The company made significant investments (~$33 million) in the plant and successfully reached its desired production rates and sales requirements.
  • CoreValue assessment helped A.M. Metal Finishing earn a “Top 50 Shops Award” from Products Finishing magazine, thanks to the help of FloridaMakes.
  • A focus on sales and marketing, supported by the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP), increased sales by more than $1 million for Vansco, a 10-employee company. Vansco implemented the marketing messages outlined at the beginning of the project with SCMEP across all sales, marketing and lead generation tools, and was soon adding new jobs to keep up with the increase in sales.
  • WM Barr employees in leadership, management, and sales participated in Tennessee Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s operational excellence training. The senior leadership team developed and articulated a strategic plan with goals relating to target markets, branding, and investing in automating manufacturing operations. The plan included expanding WM Barr operations, as well as consolidating operations (>$12 million investments) from China and adding more than 200 jobs in the Memphis area.
  • Louisiana Bait Products implemented a new control system for its refrigeration system, as recommended by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Louisiana (MEPOL) Sales and Marketing Boost. This led to a minimum 20 percent reduction in the company’s energy consumption, which was critical for its operation.
  • PRiMEX, the MEP Center in Puerto Rico, conducted a gap analysis for Bluewater Defense to identify modifications it would need to make to its existing Quality Management System to meet ISO 9001:2008 requirements for certification. The effort strengthened the supplier for the U.S. Defense Department and added over 50 new employees.

MEP Centers of the Southeast

The last piece of the puzzle is the outstanding, second-to-none MEP Center personnel in the region, including administrative staff, field agents, board members, and center directors. Each Center is a partnership between the federal government and a variety of public or private entities, including state, university, and nonprofit organizations. It is the only public-private partnership to serve U.S. manufacturers. The Centers tailor services to small and medium-sized manufacturer’s critical needs, ranging from process improvement and workforce development to business practices, supply chain integration and technology transfer. These public/private partnerships deliver a high return on investment to taxpayers generating $100 for every dollar of federal investment based on new investments, cost savings, and new and retained sales reported by clients. In the Southeast region, with a combined federal annual budget of approximately $18 million, this generates over $2 billion of manufacturing business activity in the region2

Let’s Continue to Count the Ways

What is there not to like? The region is filled with amazing people, beautiful country, an advanced transportation infrastructure, exemplary social and cultural environment, and a placemat welcoming new businesses 24/7.

Bienvenidos!  When are you coming?      


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The MEP National Network™ is a unique public-private partnership that delivers comprehensive, proven solutions to U.S. manufacturers, fueling growth and advancing U.S. manufacturing.

About the author

José Colucci

José A. Colucci Ríos is the NIST MEP Southeast Regional Manager that includes nine states along the east coast and the gulf of Mexico from North Carolina to Louisiana, inland Tennessee and Puerto Rico. Previously, he was a professor and held several administrative positions at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez such as Department Director, Associate R&D Dean and R&D Center Director. In addition, he worked for Union Carbide for eight years from Research Engineer to Market Manager in the Polymers, Specialty Chemicals and Solvents & Coatings divisions.

Andrew Nobleman

Andrew Nobleman is a Resource Manager for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program. He enjoys taking in the extracurricular activities offered at NIST's main campus, volunteering for the NIST blogs, and finding new ways to challenge himself. In his free time, Andrew and his family are attempting to visit all the National Parks in the United States.

Gloria Solomon

Gloria Solomon, a true GRITS (girl raised in the south), moved to Maryland and joined NIST MEP in 2013.  She has been in her role as an FPO for almost three years.  Gloria is passionate about individual and corporate growth and progress.   She studied business at UNC-Greensboro, and Wake Forest University, both in North Carolina, and is currently working on her dissertation focusing on leadership at Walden University.  Gloria enjoys working with MEP Center staff by applying her knowledge and skills to help achieve NIST MEP’s mission to enhance the productivity and technological performance of U.S. manufacturing.

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