FuzeHub Report: Federal Programs for Manufacturers

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Introduction

An earlier FuzeHub Report described New York State programs for manufacturers. This report describes federal programs that are available to help U.S. manufacturers succeed. Many are administered by various agencies of the U.S. Department of Commerce, but entities like the Department of Energy and Department of Defense also play an important role in spurring demand for innovation in manufacturing.

General

Manufacturing Extension Partnership

The primary federal program dedicated to the needs of small and mid-sized manufacturers is the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership. This network of organizations provides growth and innovation services to small and mid-sized manufacturers in every corner of the country to help them create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money. In our state, the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NY MEP) is administered by Empire State Development, New York’s economic development agency.

Innovation Assistance

Small Business Innovation Research / Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR)

Think of this program as “America’s Seed Fund,” like its tag line suggests. The eleven federal agencies with extramural research budgets of over $100 million are required to set aside a percentage of those funds to award grants to small businesses undertaking R&D with the goal of commercialization. The Small Business Administration coordinates this program, and major volumes of funding come from agencies like the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy.

Each agency administers its SBIR/STTR program differently, but generally they designate R&D topics of varying specificity in their solicitations. Small businesses interested in this federal support for their R&D projects would be advised to start a dialogue with the SBIR program manager at the most relevant federal agency, monitor the solicitations, and attend the periodic SBIR road tours. In 2015, New York State ranked 5th for the volume of SBIR/STTR obligations.

Manufacturing USA

Under the Obama Administration, nine different institutes focused on manufacturing innovation have been established or announced, with six more planned by 2017. This “Manufacturing USA” network was until recently known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

The institutes are public-private partnerships that each have distinct technology focus areas (e.g. photonics, composites, additive manufacturing, digital manufacturing, smart manufacturing) but work towards a common goal: to secure America’s future through manufacturing innovation, education, and collaboration. Manufacturing USA institutes focus on moving promising, early-stage research into proven capabilities ready for adoption by U.S. manufacturers.

All the institutes are membership organizations that welcome participation by small manufacturers. Members typically gain access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, as well as workforce training and skills development customized to support new technology areas.

New York-based institutions are playing leading roles in many of the institutes, and New York State has invested in several. As of 2017, the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership will be embedded staff at several of the institutes to help ensure that small manufacturers benefit from their work.

Federal labs

Each year, billions of dollars go to funding R&D at federal laboratories (AKA Federally Funded Research and Development Centers). Most of these labs are chartered to perform research on behalf of the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, or National Science Foundation. The intent is that those innovations ultimately move from the lab to the marketplace and generate an economic return on that investment. The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer is the best pathway for companies large or small to take advantage of lab resources and participate in commercialization of those innovations.

NIST labs

Separately, the National Institute of Standards and Technology directly runs a number of laboratories to assist in its mission to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. These are in the areas of communications technologies; engineering; information technology and cybersecurity; material measurement; and physical measurement. While much of the work NIST performs in these labs makes its way into the manufacturing base by way of dissemination of publications relating to measurements and standards, companies can in some cases take advantage of lab facilities and participate in their research projects.

Financing

The vast majority of New York State manufacturers are small businesses, and the Small Business Administration provides loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling, and other forms of assistance to such companies. The SBA has district offices in Buffalo, Syracuse, and New York City. Its National Resource Guide is a good reference for understanding the capital and financing programs available to small businesses.

Please note that this report does not cover tax credits or other tax-related benefits or programs, for example those available to manufacturers of energy-efficient products, those making investments in underserved communities, or those eligible for health insurance-related tax relief.

Procurement

The U.S. government is the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, awarding approximately $500 billion in contracts every year, according to the Small Business Administration.

The Department of Defense operates a network of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers that provide technical assistance to businesses that want to sell products and services to governments, helping small companies to research past and current contract opportunities and obtain certifications that make them more competitive for those opportunities. Locations in New York State include Rochester, Batavia, Little Valley, Watertown, Pearl River, Long Island City, the Bronx, and New York City.

The SBA has an Office of Government Contracting & Business Development that works with federal agencies to award at least 23 percent of government contract dollars to small businesses. The first step to taking advantage of this is registering as a federal contractor and certifying your business as small.

Trade

U.S. Commercial Service

The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, and it has six offices in New York State. Companies interested in boosting their exports can take advantage of the U.S. Commercial Service’s trade counseling, market intelligence, and business matchmaking services—especially its highly effective Gold Key Service. They can also apply to participate in its trade missions and exhibit to foreign buyers at U.S. trade shows.

State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Initiative

The Small Business Administration provides states with funding—in our case administered by Empire State Development’s Global NY team—to support participation in export activities and services, including trade shows. Global NY took a delegation of New York manufacturers to a “smart cities”-focused trade show in Barcelona this year. Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa, and China are also focuses of New York’s STEP grant from the SBA.

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms

The Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF) program, administered by the Economic Development Administration, helps companies that have been negatively affected by imports by offsetting the costs of projects to increase competitiveness, expand markets, strengthen operations, and increase profitability. New York companies should inquire with the Trade Adjustment Assistance office in Binghamton.

Other

A few additional resources worth mentioning on this topic are:

  • export.gov is the primary U.S. government web portal serving companies seeking to expand their exports to foreign markets. Under the Obama Administration, the National Export Initiative (NEI) sought to further strengthen and integrate the federal government’s efforts to help more American companies reach more overseas markets.
  • The BusinessUSA website has a Country Trade Leads Portal where business can uncover trade leads, research, and other resources related to exporting to any country.
  • The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security offers export regulations training and related information.
  • The Export-Import (EXIM) Bank provides companies with trade financing solutions like export credit insurance, working capital guarantees, and guarantees of commercial loans to foreign buyers, to empower exporters of U.S. goods and services.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has its own Trade Lead System and Emerging Markets Program, among other initiatives, to connect U.S. food and agricultural exporters with interested international buyers.

Energy & Efficiency

Department of Energy

The Department of Energy (DOE) funds the research, development, and demonstration of energy-saving manufacturing technologies. Its involvement in the Manufacturing USA network, where it is sponsoring multiple manufacturing innovation institutes focused on different clean energy technologies, is an example of this work. (In fact, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. is the regional lead for the newly established DOE-funded Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute; membership is free for small manufacturers.) DOE laboratories are another example. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) houses an Advanced Manufacturing Office that issues solicitations to the private sector for the development of specific innovations in manufacturing technologies, for example this recent one focused on electrical motors.

DOE also funds a network of Industrial Assessment Centers that provide no-cost energy assessments to small and mid-sized manufacturers and assist in the deployment of advance energy efficiency technologies. There is one at Syracuse University.

The Department also has a number of programs aimed at assisting entrepreneurs and companies involved in the manufacture of energy efficient technologies and products.

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA, more popularly known for its policing of manufacturers’ environmental impact, operates several programs of assistance related to sustainable manufacturing. These programs provide regulatory guidance, tools, best-practice resources, case studies, technical assistance, and partnership opportunities.

Indirect Assistance and Misc.

AMP 2.0

In June 2011, President Barack Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) on the recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). AMP was charged with identifying collaborative opportunities between industry, academia and government that will catalyze development and investment in emerging technologies, policies and partnerships with the potential to transform and reinvigorate advanced manufacturing in the United States. It issued a set of recommendations in its July 2012 “Report to the President on Capturing Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing.” A subsequent convening of “AMP 2.0” resulted in the October 2014 “Report to the President: Accelerating U.S. Advanced Manufacturing.” These committees’ work informed the creation and implementation of the Obama Administration’s signature Manufacturing USA (formerly National Network for Manufacturing Innovation) initiative, described earlier.

Advanced Manufacturing [National Program] Office

Hosted at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, this office is staffed by representatives from federal agencies and universities focusing on manufacturing-related missions. It is charged with enabling more effective collaboration in identifying and addressing challenges and opportunities that span technology areas and cut across agency missions. In addition, the office links federal efforts to the growing number of private-sector partnerships between manufacturers, universities, state and local governments, and other organizations.

Two critical activities administered by this office are the Manufacturing USA initiative (described elsewhere in this report) and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) Program, which supports the development of private sector-driven consortia and technology roadmaps needed to advance strategic industries.

Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership

The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) is a government-wide initiative to help communities cultivate an environment for businesses implemented in 2013 to create well-paying manufacturing jobs in regions across the country and thereby accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing. New York’s Finger Lakes region enjoys an IMCP designation. The 24 IMCP communities receive coordinated support from dedicated liaisons at eleven federal agencies to navigate available resources, and receive preferential consideration for grant and other awards.

BusinessUSA

The assortment of programs listed in this report make clear that there is a vast landscape of assistance and initiatives for manufacturers to take advantage of at the federal level, but it is not comprehensive. To make navigating this landscape easier, the U.S. government created the BusinessUSA portal where companies can explore federally supported business tools and resources.

Assistance for minority- and women-owned businesses

The SBA offers programs specifically eligible to minority-owned and women-owned small businesses. And the Minority Business Development Agency helps minority-owned manufacturers secure capital for new equipment and facilities; compete for public and private sector contracts; and prepare for exporting opportunities through a network of 45 MBDA Business Centers around the country (including one in Manhattan and one in South Bronx).

 

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