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Survey Finds Small Manufacturers Are More Competitive, Productive Thanks to NIST MEP

Small manufacturing clients of the nationwide Manufacturing Extension Partnership are saving money, creating new jobs, and increasing and retaining sales at a higher rate than ever before as a result of working with MEP, according to the results of a new survey released today. MEP is a program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration.

In a survey of NIST MEP clients served between January and September of 1999, 2,942 companies around the country reported that, as a result of NIST MEP services, they:

  • increased or retained $1.4 billion in sales;
  • realized $364 million in cost savings;
  • invested $576 million in modernization, including plant and equipment, information systems, and workforce and training; and
  • created 5,796 jobs and retained 12,357 jobs.

Sixty-three percent of the clients responding to the survey reported improvements in productivity and 71 percent said their company was more competitive as a result of the services they received from NIST MEP.

The survey also found that 71 percent of the MEP clients reported that employee skills had improved and 68 percent said the work environment for employees had improved as a result of MEP services. Eighty-five percent said they were very satisfied or satisfied with the quality of the services they received and 86 percent said they would definitely or probably use NIST MEP services again.

The survey was conducted between March and November 2000 by Market Facts Incorporated located in Arlington Heights, Ill. MEP has conducted national surveys of its clients since 1996, but this is the most comprehensive survey to date. Only clients that had completed a substantive activity with an MEP center from January through September 1999 were surveyed. (A different instrument was used to survey clients in the first quarter of fiscal year 1999, so those results are not included.)

Clients responding to the survey completed an average 2.2 projects with a center representing 123 hours of service. Clients were asked to consider the entire set of services a center provided over the past two years and comment on how their business performance had been affected in the past 12 months.

Other independent studies also have shown solid evidence of performance and economic benefits to NIST MEP clients. For example, researchers at The Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, found that 1,559 manufacturing extension clients experienced between 3.4 percent and 16 percent more growth in labor productivity over a five-year period than similar non-client firms. This productivity growth translated into $484 million in additional value-added for these MEP clients.

The NIST MEP is a nationwide network of resources assisting the nation's smaller manufacturers in becoming more competitive by addressing their most critical and often unique needs. At the heart of the MEP is a network of more than 400 manufacturing extension centers and field offices located throughout the country. Started in 1989, today's network delivers services to manufacturers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Centers represent a blend of federal, state and local resources.

Numbering more than 361,000, small and mid-sized manufacturers make vital contributions to the economy. About 99 percent of the nation's manufacturers are small to medium-sized, defined as having fewer than 500 employees. They account for over half the total value of U.S. production and employ nearly 12 million people. That accounts for more than two-thirds of all U.S. manufacturing employment. These jobs are high-skilled and high-wage, paying an average 50 percent more than retail salaries.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST strengthens the U.S. economy and improves the quality of life by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards through four partnerships: the NIST Laboratories, the Baldrige National Quality Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Advanced Technology Program.

Note to editors: A copy of the survey is available on the World Wide Web at or by faxing a request to NIST Public and Business Affairs at (301) 926-1630.

To explore a century of NIST partnerships with U.S. industry, benefits to the public and impacts on economic growth, go to the NIST centennial (1901-2001) web site at

Released February 14, 2001, Updated January 25, 2023