The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology announced in today's Federal Register that it is inviting not-for-profit organizations to submit proposals for new manufacturing extension centers to join a network of centers offering expertise and assistance on modern manufacturing technology and business practices to the nation's 381,000 smaller manufacturers.
Approximately $20 million is available to support the establishment of new 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 July 8, 1996. Selection of awards will be made in September 1996.
Currently, MEP-affiliated centers in 42 states and Puerto Rico work with small and medium-sized manufacturers to address many of the technology and business improvement challenges they face. Eight states do not have a center affiliated with the NIST MEP: Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington. Five states have at least one MEP center but have regions that are not covered: California, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Proposals for new centers are evaluated on the basis of an applicant's knowledge and identification of target firms in the proposed region, technology resources, technology delivery mechanisms, and management and financial plans. The review includes site visits for finalists to verify application data and clarify questions that may have arisen during evaluation.
MEP centers are locally run, non-profit organizations designed to help link sources of improved manufacturing technology and modern business practices with the small and mid-sized companies needing assistance. While each center tailors its services to meet the needs dictated by its location and manufacturing client base, some common services are offered by most extension centers. Broadly, these include helping manufacturers assess their current technology and business needs, define avenues for change and implement improvements. Partnering with other organizations, many centers also assist companies with quality management, workforce training, workplace organization, business systems, marketing or financial issues.
While most MEP affiliates have been providing services for only a year or two, results from earlier established centers indicate that MEP's network of manufacturing extension services is fostering significant improvements in manufacturing and business performance. According to a 1994 survey of 610 firms, benefits anticipated totaled $167 million, the cumulative result of sales increases and cost savings attributed to actions undertaken with technical assistance from MEP centers. Benefits per company included 5.6 jobs added or saved, $43,000 savings in labor and material costs, and an increase of almost $370,000 in sales.
For further information on submitting a proposal, including the necessary application forms, contact NIST's MEP at (301) 975-5020, or by e-mail at MEPinfo [at] micf.nist.gov.
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.