NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership Delivers Results

Today’s release of the latest employment statistics from the Department of Labor—244,000 jobs added in April—makes you wonder, where did these jobs come from? While we know most jobs are created by the private sector, government agencies often do have a role in fostering this job creation.  The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has done just that. 

As a public-private partnership, MEP delivers a high return on its investments to American taxpayers. In 2009, MEP helped businesses create or retain 72,075 jobs, and for every one dollar of federal investment, generated $32 in new sales growth (PDF). This return on investment translates to $3.6 billion in new sales annually among MEP clients. And for every $1,570 in federal investment, MEP creates or retains one manufacturing job. Such impressive results come from a survey of MEP clients by private marketing firm Turner Marketing, Inc.

How did MEP achieve such a large return on its investments?  First, a little history.  Congress established MEP in 1988 to help small- and mid-sized manufacturers increase growth, cut costs, and create innovative new products and services.  NIST, the federal partner in MEP, works with local and regional manufacturing experts across the United States to build a nationwide network of resources for America’s manufacturers.  Several dozen NIST staff leverage over 1,400 technical experts across the nation in every state, focused on solving manufacturers’ biggest challenges and identifying opportunities for growth.

MEP offers its clients a wealth of unique and effective resources centered on five critical areas: technology acceleration, supplier development, sustainability, workforce and continuous improvement.  Clients negotiate a fee based on their company’s resources and expected benefits from participating in the program.
According to BNET/CBS Interactive Business Network:
  • At Osagian Canoes in Lebanon, Missouri, the prohibitive cost of shipping finished aluminum canoes once ruled out exports. But as USA Today has reported, MEP opened a door to foreign partnerships. Osagian linked up with a Danish manufacturer that assembles and sells the canoes in Europe, an arrangement that now rings up 15 percent of the canoe-maker’s sales.
  • Under price pressure from global rivals, Accurate Screw Machine Products (ASM) in Fairfield, New Jersey has attributed $250,000 in cost savings and $500,000 in retained sales to NJMEP in 2010, allowing it to remain open with 90 employees. How? By educating frontline employees on the merits of a lean manufacturing operation with state money that MEP helped ASM obtain.
  • …according to the latest survey, two of every three MEP protégés would recommend MEP to other companies. If MEP is big government at work, maybe small business needs more of it.