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How the MEP System Powers New York Manufacturing

Twenty five years ago, Americans watched as Japan became a formidable economic rival. As the U.S. saw its trade surpluses shrink and trade deficits grow, millions of high-skill, high-wage manufacturing jobs were lost. The pain was especially acute across the “Rust Belt”, a swath of states ranging from the northeastern U.S. to the Midwest. By the end of the 1980s, stopping the decline in U.S. manufacturing was more than just a matter of trade policy. In response, the MEP system was born.
Created in 1988, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) system is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and named after Ernest Frederick “Fritz” Hollings, the U.S. Senator from South Carolina who was the MEP’s first legislative sponsor. Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan as part of the Omnibus Trade and Competiveness Act of 1988, the MEP system helps American manufacturers grow and compete.
Manufacturing Technology Centers (MTC)
The NIST MEP statute called for the creation of Manufacturing Technology Centers (MTC) that would help U.S. manufacturers, especially small and mid-sized companies, leverage new production technologies, including automation. The first MTCs were established in three states – New York, Ohio, and South Carolina – that had been especially hard hit by changes to the U.S. economy. Today, the NIST Hollings MEP system includes centers and field offices in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
MEP centers are independent, non-profit organizations that include universities, community colleges, state government, and the private sector. Staffed by full-time solutions providers, outside consultants, or a combination of both, each center works directly with local companies to provide services that meet a manufacturer’s specific needs. Examples include process improvements, energy cost reductions, and the application of information technology (IT) to business, accounting, and manufacturing challenges.
As a part of NIST, the MEP system also helps U.S. manufacturers to leverage technologies developed in national laboratories. By supporting the transfer of cutting-edge advances to local and regional manufacturers, MEP centers are helping businesses to realize gains in productivity and technological capabilities that can also support job creation. In addition to technology acceleration, MEP centers focus on four other critical areas: supplier development, sustainability, workforce, and continuous improvement.
Regional Technology Development Centers (RTDC)
In New York State, the NIST Hollings MEP system partners with two state programs, Technology Development Organizations (TDO) and Industrial Technology Extension Services (ITES), focusing on NYS manufacturers. In addition to accessing resources within the New York State system, small to mid-sized companies can find manufacturing expertise within the national MEP system, which includes 400 local outreach centers and field offices.
New York State’s MEP centers are known as Regional Technology Development Centers (RTDC) by statute and because of their geographic focus. Each of the state’s 10 RTDCs are independent, but all share a common commitment to technology commercialization, product development, continuous improvements, and technology transfer services. New York’s 10 RTDCs are:
·        Alliance for Manufacturing and Technology (AM&T) 
·        Center for Economic Growth (CEG) 
·        Central New York Technology Development Organization (TDO) 
·        Council for International Trade, Technology, Education and Communication, Inc. (CITEC)  
·        High Tech Rochester, Inc. (HTR) 
·        Hudson Valley Technology Development Center (HVTDC) 
·        Industrial & Technology Assistance Corporation (ITAC) 
·        Insyte Consulting 
·        Long Island Forum for Technology, Inc (LIFT) 
·        Mohawk Valley Applied Technology Corporation (MVATC) 
Empire State Development (ESD), New York State’s chief economic development agency, also supports manufacturers. In conjunction with ESD’s Division of Science, Technology & Innovation (NYSTAR), ESD works with 10 Regional Councils that empower local leaders from the private and public sectors to grow their own economies.
Building Connections
Today, Americans are more concerned about imports from China than Japan. After decades of globalization, a new term – reshoring – has also entered the lexicon. In New York State, small to mid-sized manufacturers are still working with RTDCs and accessing expertise throughout the national MEP system. Yet these companies are leveraging technologies that seemed impossible 25 years ago, and benefitting from resources that were simply unavailable.
FuzeHub, a powerful new on-line platform, will help New York’s small and medium-sized manufacturers access an array of available resources, including New York State’s MEP system. Developed in partnership between ESD’s NYSTAR division and NIST, FuzeHub enables New York companies to ask for assistance on-line any time. Within 48 hours of receiving a request, manufacturing and technical experts will contact the company and begin identifying challenges and building connections.     
Through the FuzeHub initiative, two RTDCs – the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center (HVTDC) and the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth (CEG) – recently collaborated to help ThermoAura, a nanotechnology startup, acquire a $300,000 investment and create a multi-phase manufacturing plan.  “FuzeHub brings together all of our leading technology resources under one umbrella,” says Governor Andrew Cuomo, and “builds on the State’s work to create a business environment that allows manufacturers to thrive in New York.”

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