ORLANDO, Fla.--The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced grants totaling $4.5 million to five organizations affiliated with NIST's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to assist manufacturers in Gulf Coast regions hard hit by last year's hurricanes.
"Smaller manufacturers are critical to the competitiveness of the entire manufacturing sector and to the health of the U.S. economy. This funding to MEP-affiliated centers in the Gulf Coast region will help manufacturers whose businesses were affected by last year's hurricanes recover and rebuild," said Roger Kilmer, director of NIST's MEP, at the 2006 MEP National Conference in Orlando, Fla.
The funding is going to Mississippi Technology Alliance and Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Louisiana ($2.2 million for a joint project), Alabama Technology Network ($750,000), Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center ($800,000) and Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership ($750,000). The fiscal year 2006 appropriations directed NIST to use $4.5 million to support the recovery of manufacturers in areas affected by hurricanes in the five states on the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 14,000 manufacturers are located in regions of these five states that the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared disaster areas following last year's hurricanes.
One of the most pressing challenges facing manufacturers in these regions is finding enough skilled and unskilled workers to maintain production schedules and meet customer demand. In particular, the Gulf Coast shipbuilding industry is struggling not only to repair damage to facilities and equipment but also to rebuild a technically skilled workforce. A top priority for the five MEP centers is to help manufacturers find workers and restore operations to pre-hurricane levels. Other goals are to help manufacturers locate and obtain private-sector resources to help with facility reconstruction, provide financial and contingency planning, and incorporate technology and automation into the workplace. The centers will collaborate with each other and with numerous other partners, including universities and economic development agencies.
MEP centers in the five states were invited to submit proposals describing the needs of smaller manufacturers affected by the hurricanes; the center's resources, including technical staff, facilities, equipment and links to external sources of assistance; technology delivery mechanisms; and a management and financial plan.
MEP is a nationwide network of resources transforming manufacturers to compete globally, supporting greater supply chain integration and providing access to technology for improved productivity.
As a non-regulatory agency, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.