GAITHERSBURG, Md.—The U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the award of new cooperative agreements to 10 nonprofit organizations and universities to manage Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers. NIST's MEP program helps small- and mid-size manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits and save time and money. In an open competition, the existing MEP centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, were selected to receive a total of $26 million in federal funding, an increase of about $10 million or nearly 60 percent. The funding will allow the centers to reach new customers and offer new services.
"We are excited to award new agreements that bring increased funding levels to better meet the needs of manufacturers in these 10 states," said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May. "These awards will allow the centers to help more manufacturers reach their goals in growth and innovation, which will have a positive impact on both their communities and the U.S. economy."
In August 2014, NIST announced a competition for the centers in these 10 states as the first step in a multi-year effort to update MEP's funding structure to better match resources with needs. In March 2014, the Government Accountability Office recommended that MEP update its distribution of funds, which were allocated according to the award each center received when it was first established. The original awards to these states were made more than 10 years ago, and the MEP investment in terms of dollars per manufacturing establishment was below its national average, making them the most underfunded of MEP's 60 centers.
Proposals were reviewed by government and independent experts and evaluated against a number of criteria, including demonstration of a thorough understanding of market needs and how proposed service offerings would meet those needs. The reviewers also looked at the proposed business models, performance measurements and metrics, partnership potential, staff qualifications and program management, as well as financial and non-federal cost-share plans.
The new cooperative agreements are for five years, subject to the availability of annual appropriations and successful annual reviews.
"With the increased funding, the centers will have the opportunity to serve more manufacturers and to reach out to those they might not have served in the past, including manufacturers in emerging industries, in rural areas or those that are very small," said NIST's Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services and Acting Director of MEP Phil Singerman. "The funding will also help them to develop new tools to support innovative supply chains, technology acceleration and workforce development."
The competition also resulted in organizational and programmatic changes to improve local board oversight, align the centers' activities with state and federal priorities, establish innovative programs, create new partnerships with diverse stakeholders and reorganize service delivery areas.
The recipients are:
MEP centers are public-private partnerships and must receive a portion of their funding from non-federal agencies or organizations and industry through service fees. According to the program's cost-sharing requirement, in the first three years of the award, the federal funding must be matched dollar for dollar by the operating entity. In a center's fourth year, the federal funding reduces to two-fifths of its budget. Centers that operate for five or more years receive one-third of their annual funding from NIST.
A major goal of the competition was to establish a sustainable funding base by providing larger proportions of cash and increased funding from state and local governments. In eight of the 10 states, the state/local cash increased significantly; in one state the cash contribution remained constant at nearly $2 million; and in the other state, state/local in-kind support replaced in-kind support from other sources.
As a public-private partnership, MEP delivers a high return on investment to taxpayers. For every dollar of federal investment, MEP clients generate nearly $19 in new sales, which translates into $2.5 billion annually. And for every $2,001 of federal investment, MEP creates or retains one U.S. manufacturing job. Since 1988, MEP has worked with nearly 80,000 U.S. manufacturers, leading to $88 billion in sales and $14 billion in cost savings, and it has helped create more than 729,000 jobs.