The Little Acronym that Could: MEP Turns 30

By Matthew McMullan
Dec 21 2018 |
| flowgraph / Getty Images

That’s three decades of outsized importance for American manufacturing.

It’s almost the end of the year! Heckuva year we’ve had. The birds won the Super Bowl. Roseanne came back, then Roseanne herself got canned, and now we’ve got The Conners without her (my review: it’s pretty good). And Lindsey Buckingham got fired from Fleetwood Mac. But he'll land on his feet; don't forget that he wrote "Holiday Road" while on his own.

That sums it all up, right?

Of course not! Because 2018 was also the year the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) turned 30.

Yeah, I know. How could I forget, right? This acronym isn’t exactly well-known and on the tip of many tongues. But in the last three decades, this tiny organization, part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has had a legitimately outsized effect on the American economy.

What does it do? MEP, through a network of centers (they call them MEPs) in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, helps small- and medium-sized manufacturers improve their businesses. That means stuff like assistance with product development and business continuity planning. A fraction of the federal budget goes to funding this thing, but that investment pays dividends: A study by the Upjohn Institute found that the $128 million invested in MEP during FY2017 generated almost $1.9 billion in returns to the federal treasury.

I think this is a better figure, though: Since 1988, MEP’s work has helped create and retain more than 985,000 jobs. That’s a lot of jobs!

But 30 is a big number too, so, you know, MEP had a get-together a few weeks ago to mark the occasion. Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul was honored with an invitation to speak at the event, and he had this to say:

The taxpayer investment in MEPs, a tiny, tiny fraction of the federal budget, is returned many, many times over in the jobs, the income, the wealth created from a thriving and growing manufacturing base.

Still, MEP has its critics and skeptics. To them I say this: You can be philosophical, or you can be realistic. If we don’t fight for our makers, someone else will get the business, in China, or Germany, or Brazil, or somewhere else.

Well said for a worthwhile investment. Happy 30th, MEP! We hope you have a good 31. And learn more about the work that MEP does here.