The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology is inviting not-for-profit organizations to submit proposals for new manufacturing extension centers to provide modern manufacturing technology and business practices to the nation's 381,000 smaller manufacturers.
Approximately $41 million is available to support the establishment of new manufacturing extension centers as part of the NIST-managed Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Federal support may be provided for up to six years. Applicants must be able to provide at least 50 percent of operating costs for the first three years and an increasing percentage in subsequent years. Proposals must be received by Aug. 7, 1995. Selection of awards will be made in September 1995.
Proposals are evaluated and selected based on the applicant's knowledge and identification of the small manufacturers in the proposed region and their technology needs, the availability of technology resources, technology delivery mechanisms, and management and financial plan. The review includes site visits for finalists to verify application data and clarify questions that may have arisen during evaluation.
NIST's MEP is a growing nationwide network of locally based manufacturing extension centers dedicated to helping smaller manufacturers improve their competitiveness by providing easy access to new technologies, resources and expertise. According to a 1993 report by the National Research Council, "Many of these small firms ... are operating far below their potential. Their use of modern manufacturing equipment, methodologies and management practices is inadequate to ensure that American manufacturing will be globally competitive." Currently, 42 centers are operating in 32 states. Each center is a partnership typically involving federal, state and local governments; educational institutions; and other sources of expertise, information and funding support.
Surveys of 1994 client firms served by 13 MEP centers indicate the services being provided are fostering significant improvements in manufacturing and business performance. For example, benefits anticipated by 610 firms responding to the surveys totaled $167 million, the cumulative result of sales increases and cost savings attributable to actions undertaken with assistance from the centers. Average anticipated benefits per company include 5.6 jobs added or saved, $43,000 savings in labor and material costs and an increase of $369,000 in sales. Client companies are up to six times more likely to plan technical improvements than similar unserved companies. Federal funding for the 13 centers totaled $20 million, translating into a conservatively estimated economic benefit of $8 on each dollar that the federal government invested in MEP.
For further information on submitting a proposal, including the necessary application forms, contact NIST's MEP by fax at (301) 963-6556, by telephone at (301) 975-5020, or by e-mail at MEPinfo [at] micf.nist.gov (Internet). Information also can be found in the June 6 Federal Register.
A non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department s Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.