The National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has announced that it will hold two separate competitions in 2016 for MEP centers in 21 states and Puerto Rico. The upcoming competitions are part of a multi-year effort to make the most of MEP's federal investment in U.S. manufacturing and to allocate additional funds to areas with higher concentrations of manufacturers.
NIST MEP, through a state-federal network of 60 centers and 1,200 manufacturing experts, helps small and medium-sized manufacturers across the country improve their production processes, upgrade their technological capabilities and bring new products to market, improving their competitiveness and increasing employment and investment across the country.
Every dollar of federal investment in the MEP translates into $19 of new sales for small and medium-sized manufacturers, or almost $2.5 billion annually across the 30,000 small and medium-sized manufacturers that typically use MEP services in a given year.
The federal government uses periodic full and open competitions to ensure a rigorous, transparent process for selecting the best applicants to fulfill public functions. The decision to implement the process is not a reflection on the performance of individual centers; incumbent center operators in good standing are eligible to apply.
Benefits of participating in the competition include:
- the opportunity to realign MEP center activities with state economic development strategies;
- a reset of state funding levels to reflect the regional importance of manufacturing and the national distribution of manufacturing activities;
- a reduction and simplification of reporting requirements;
- a reduction of the annual paperwork burden through five-year awards; and
- an immediate readjustment of the local cost share from 2:1 to 1:1.
"We're announcing next year's competitions now in order to reach as many potential applicants as possible and to give them ample time to prepare," said Carroll Thomas, MEP director. "MEP centers do so much to support their local manufacturers, and we want applicants to have the time to pull together the partnerships and resources that will make a center successful."
In January 2016, NIST MEP anticipates announcing the competitions for Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and Vermont.
In July 2016, NIST MEP anticipates announcing competitions for Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and Wyoming.
NIST MEP intends to conduct approximately two to three regional forums prior to or in conjunction with each funding announcement to provide potential applicants with general information and guidance on preparing proposals. NIST MEP staff will provide information on business model approaches, developing proposals and sharing lessons learned from the previous MEP competitions.
The first round of state competitions, for centers in 10 states, was completed in February 2015. That competition focused on states where the MEP investment in terms of dollars per manufacturer was below MEP's national average, making them the most underfunded of its centers.
On March 9, 2015, NIST announced funding opportunities in 12 states, with an application deadline of June 1, 2015, and an award announcement expected in the fall of 2015.
Visit the MEP website for more information on these upcoming funding opportunities.