The MEP was established in 1988 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help manufacturers with limited resources combat increasing competition from abroad. It is built on a nationwide system of centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Each center is a partnership between the federal government and a variety of public or private entities, including state, university and nonprofit organizations. This diverse network, with 588 service locations, has more than 1,200 field staff serving as business advisors and technical experts. These experts guide manufacturers to develop new products and customers, expand into global markets, adopt new technology and more.
As the global manufacturing climate has shifted, MEP has evolved to meet changing needs of U.S. manufacturers. However, in some cases, that evolution has not been fast enough and consistent across the MEP Network. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership Improvement Act (S. 2779), a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), provides a comprehensive plan for improving and expanding the MEP program.
S. 2779 increases MEP Center access and services by doubling the program funding to $260 million annually through 2020 and permanently adjusting the federal MEP cost share to one-to-one. In addition, it helps build the manufacturing workforce by authorizing centers to support the development of manufacturing-related apprenticeship, internship and industry-recognized certification programs. Lastly, the bill requires the MEP program to develop open-access resources describing best practices for small manufacturers; strengthens the MEP Center review process; and requires re-competition of MEP Center awards every 10 years to ensure all centers are adhering to the standards set by the program.
There are few federal programs that provide as great a return on investment as the MEP program. According to NIST, for every dollar of federal investment, the MEP generates nearly $24 in new client investment and $17 in new sales growth for small- and medium-sized manufacturers. The program also retains or creates one U.S. manufacturing job for every $1,900 in federal investment. In FY2015 alone, MEP Network served 29,101 small- and medium-sized manufacturers, which resulted in approximately $2.3 billion in new sales, $1.2 billion in cost savings, $3.2 billion in new client investment, and the creation and retention of 68,477 manufacturing jobs.
AMT is a long-time supporter of the MEP program as a tool to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. small- and medium-sized manufacturers. We continue to work with the bill’s sponsors as the legislation works its way through the legislative process. I urge you to consider joining your association in support of S. 2779 and in calling on Congress to approve it.
For questions on the MEP bill or any other government relations-related issues, please contact me at athomas@AMTonline.org.