In the Wake of Proposed Cuts, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Promotes Its Work

Jun 09 2017 |
Goetz Composites in Rhode Island has worked with Polaris MEP, a local Manufacturing Extension Partnership center, to recruit and retain new employees. | Goetz Composites

Capitol Hill event touts MEP’s solid record of job creation and economic output.

President Donald Trump's proposed budget recommends cutting all federal funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)a network of public-private centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico that help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturing companies grow and prosper.  

While Trump is seeking to gut the program, it will be Congress that ultimately will decide MEP's funding fate. On Wednesday, MEP center directors and clients met at the Capitol to discuss the positive effect that MEP has on their states and companies. 

Experts noted that MEP has had a huge impact on small U.S. manufacturers and the larger economy — and the data proves it. Randall Eberts of W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research shared findings from a recent report that looked at the economic net impact of MEP, noting that the $130 million invested in MEP during fiscal 2016 led to: 

  • 142,381 jobs created or retained; 
  • aincrease of $15.4 billion in GDP;  
  • an increase of $8.44 billion in personal income; 
  • and $1.13 billion added to the U.S. Treasury. 

While Eberts looked at the big picture, manufacturers and MEP officials offered insight into the impact of the program on the local level. 

Christian Cowan of Polaris MEP in Rhode Island noted that 95 percent of the Ocean State's 1,600 manufacturing facilities are small businesses with less than 100 employees. Innovation is key to combat the offshoring of those manufacturing jobs, and that is where MEP comes in. 

The Governor's Manufacturing Initiative is focused on economic and workforce development, including tax incentives, innovation vouchers, job training, tax credits, and education, Cowan said. The goal is help companies move to the next level of success.   

In 2016, Polaris MEP added or saved 138 jobs and led to $27 million in increased or retained sales for state manufacturers. 

Chase Hogoboom, president of Goetz Composites, increased his workforce by 50 workers within the last two years due to help from Polaris MEP. Hogoboom stated that 70 percent of workers that the company hires are unexperienced and require on-the-job training.

Once employees are trained, the retention rate of unexperienced workers is higher than the experienced workers. Polaris MEP helps Hogoboom manage risky applicants when trying expand his small company, he said.  

Center directors and clients from Pennsylvania and Virginia MEPs were also in attendance, including Pennsylvania DVIRC Director Joe Houldin and New Way Air Bearings President Nick Hackett.  

Houldin said his MEP center promotes new manufacturing technology and products. Hackett jumped in, pointing out that knowing the technology in the market can help businesses like his growMEP can help companies be more competitive and react to the market wisely. 

Virginia GENEDGE Director Bill Donohue noted that manufacturing has a big impact on the economy, pointing out that strong nations have two things — a strong supply chain and a solid industrial base.  

Gregory Glaros of Synexxus said MEP helped his business combat high taxes and regulations, while Bart Heenan of Morphix Technologies said MEP helped conduct market research, tech prototyping and product optimization that allowed his company to rebuild after the 2008 recession.  

Some Members of Congress are also defending MEP in the wake of Trump's proposed cuts. At a Thursday hearing, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that MEP and other research and development programs should remain funded.  "You're saying this program is not flawed, it is not one that fails to deliver results, but at a time of hard budget choices it falls below the line," Coons said. 

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we're supportive of MEPIt benefits both the U.S. economy and individual companies and workers throughout the manufacturing sector. We hope Congress will agree, and keep programs like this funded. 

AAM interns Megan Salrin and Erica Maddox authored this report.