The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) is a nationwide network that provides business and technical assistance to small and medium-sized manufacturers. Since 1988, this public-private partnership has worked with more than 86,000 manufacturing companies, producing $96.4B in sales, $15.75B in cost savings, and more than 797,994 jobs. Today, MEP centers are in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. Here in New York State, there are 10 local or regional centers and one statewide center – FuzeHub. For manufacturing-related services that are experienced, adaptive, innovative, and affordable, choose MEP.
Experienced and Adaptive
MEP’s origins date back to the 1980s, a time when U.S. manufacturers faced stiff competition from Japanese companies in industries such as consumer electronics and steel. Back then, Made in America conveyed perceptions of poor quality. Innovation stagnated and manufacturing processes became outdated. In response, U.S. Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings introduced the Technology Competitiveness Act of 1988, which became part of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act that President Ronald Reagan signed into law.
The first MEP centers were located in New York State, Ohio, and Senator Hollings’ home state of South Carolina. Originally, MEP’s mission was to disseminate technical information. As the centers discovered, however, small-to-medium manufacturers didn’t want expensive or untested technologies. In response, MEP’s focus changed. Local and regional centers began providing business expertise, needs assessments, and shop floor training. As the number of centers grew, MEP continued to evolve to meet demand.
For example, during the 1990s and into the twenty-first century, U.S. manufacturers faced a new challenge. Low-cost manufacturing, especially in China, contributed to job losses and a reduction of industrial capacity at home. In response, MEP deepened its commitment to federal and state initiatives that would advance American competitiveness. Today, MEP supports individual firms as well as industrial supply chains, manufacturing communities, and innovation ecosystems. Growth-related services also strengthen the portfolios of MEP centers.
Innovative and Affordable
For NYS manufacturers, working with MEP provides a pathway to technology commercialization, business growth, and global competitiveness. Services typically include entrepreneurial assistance and help with new product development; strategic planning, project management, and marketing and sales; and training in Lean, Six Sigma, and workplace safety. Depending on the local or regional MEP center, additional capabilities may include information technology, energy and sustainability, and workforce development. As the statewide New York MEP center, FuzeHub connects companies to resources across NYS.
Within New York State, regional NY MEP centers are geographically distributed, but their locations and capabilities aren’t all that distinguish them. Some centers are based at NYS colleges or universities. Others are private, non-profit organizations. Regardless, all centers provide affordable services thanks to federal funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. State funding is provided by the Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (better known by its longstanding acronym, NYSTAR) within Empire State Development (ESD), New York State’s chief economic development agency.
As a public-private partnership, MEP was designed as a cost-sharing program. Federal appropriations pay for one-third, and the rest is funded by state and local governments, private entities, and client fees. Public funding enables smaller manufacturers to afford MEP services and get them at below-market rates. Client fees give these manufacturers a greater stake in the outcome, as reported by the U.S. Government Accounting Organization (GAO).
For manufacturing-related assistance that’s experienced, adaptive, innovative, and affordable, New York State’s MEP centers are a smart choice.