Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers around the nation that help small manufacturers to be more productive and competitive now can receive federal funding past their sixth year under legislation signed into law today by President Clinton, the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology announced.
"Eliminating the sixth year sunset on funding the Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers is a major milestone," said Commerce Secretary William M. Daley. "This will allow us to fully focus on strengthening the global competitiveness of our nation’s smaller manufacturers by helping them adopt new, more advanced manufacturing technologies and techniques and best business practices," he said. MEP is a nationwide network of manufacturing extension centers providing business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The new legislation, the Technology Administration Act of 1998 (H.R. 1274), specifies that after the sixth year an MEP center may receive one-third of its funding from NIST following a positive evaluation through an independent review. The so-called "sunset" clause in NIST MEP’s 1988 authorizing legislation stipulated that federal co-funding for centers should not be provided for more than six years. Centers also are supported through state and local funding as well as through fees for services.
Since 1995, Congress has provided extensions for MEP centers that had reached their sixth year—the Great Lakes Manufacturing Technology Center, the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Mid-America Manufacturing Technology Center, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, Minnesota Technology, Inc., and the California Manufacturing Technology Center.
Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business "coaches" whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness.
The U.S. Census Bureau surveyed 3,422 firms served by MEP centers from July 1996 to June 1997. These companies reported increased revenues of $176 million and showed savings of $27 million in inventory and $16 million in labor and material. They also invested $155 million in modernization. The companies directly attribute these benefits to the services provided by the NIST manufacturing extension centers.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST promotes economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards through four partnerships: the Measurement and Standards Laboratories, the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Baldrige National Quality Program.