The Clinton Administration today announced that the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology will provide $1.6 million in funding for the North/East Pennsylvania Manufacturing Extension Partnership at the Manufacturers Resource Center located in Bethlehem, Pa. The North/East Pennsylvania MEP is part of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which offers technical and business assistance to small and medium-sized manufacturers.
President Clinton said, "Cost-sharing is just one indication of the true partnership that is taking place at the Pennsylvania center and around the country. The goal in each of these centers is to create and retain high-quality jobs for U.S. workers and to help smaller manufacturers be even more productive."
The North/East Pennsylvania MEP comprises the Manufacturers Resource Center and its partner in Wilkes-Barre, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center. It has been an affiliate of the NIST MEP since 1994. Federal funding for its activities initially came from the Defense Department's Technology Reinvestment Project.
In addition to the $1.6 million provided by NIST, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community & Economic Development, contributes an equal amount. Funding also is provided through fees for services and industry contributions.
"This award reflects the Administration's renewed commitment to assisting our nation's 381,000 smaller manufacturers through this important program," said Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor. "We have dramatically expanded the MEP to help those manufacturers become more competitive in world markets. The Pennsylvania center as well as MEP affiliates in all 50 states and Puerto Rico are delivering much-needed services to this important sector of our economy," he said.
NIST's decision to continue funding the North/East Pennsylvania MEP followed a thorough review in which the MEP center exhibited knowledge of the region's smaller manufacturers and their needs as well as an understanding of the region's technology and business resources and delivery mechanisms. The center also developed a management and financial plan to serve the region.
The North/East Pennsylvania MEP's 17-county service area contains some 4,000 manufacturers with fewer than 500 employees. Virtually all manufacturing industries are represented, from electronics and plastics to steel, textiles and machining. Over the last decade, the composition of the region's manufacturing base has shifted from one dominated by a few large companies to a diverse collection of small and medium-sized firms. By helping these firms apply appropriate modern technologies and adopt new business and management practices, the extension program aims to accelerate smaller manufacturers' efforts to modernize and improve their operations.
Key partners in providing services are the Manufacturers Resource Center, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, and the Northeast Tier Ben Franklin Technology Center.
The NIST MEP is a nationwide network of locally managed centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico offering technical assistance and the newest business practices to smaller manufacturers. The North/East Pennsylvania MEP is fostering significant improvements in the manufacturing and business performance of its client manufacturers. In recent interviews conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, client manufacturers reported the following improvements or changes in their business performance as a result of assistance from the North/East Pennsylvania MEP: 226 jobs created, 264 jobs retained, almost $9.7 million in higher sales, $700,000 in labor and material cost savings, almost $1.8 million in dollar value of company investment and $4.7 million in lower inventory," said Edith Ritter, executive director of the North/East Pennsylvania MEP.
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.