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  July 6th, 2017 | Written by

Little-Known Program Helps Small Manufacturers Grow

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  • MEP was set up in the 1980s to support US manufacturing against competition from Japan.
  • MEP centers in each help manufacturers become more efficient and innovative.
  • Maryland MEP's clients increased sales by $7.4 million and created or retained 352 jobs last year.

Many small manufacturers around the country have a little-known, decades-old government initiative to thank for a portion of their success.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program created by Congress in 1988 aims at helping small and medium-sized manufacturers grow.

Back in the 1980s, MEP was meant to support US manufacturing industry, which was feared to be losing ground to competition from Japan. MEP centers were established in each state using federal and state dollars, to help manufacturers become more efficient and innovative. The program is now administered by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the case of one Maryland granola manufacturer, MEP helped the company nearly quadruple its operational space. By now including sufficient warehouse space, the company is able to bring in truckload quantities of ingredients and save money. The expansion also allowed the company to add 20 full time jobs and to grow revenues to over $3 million this year.

In 2016, MEP created over 142,000 jobs and added $1.13 billion to the US Treasury, according to a study by the Upjohn Institute. The federal government provides around $130 million in funding every year.

MEP centers, such as Virginia’s are state agencies, but Maryland’s is set up as an independent nonprofit. According to its latest annual report, the Maryland MEP worked with nearly 50 small and medium-sized companies in the state. Collectively, those companies increased sales by $7.4 million, reported new investments of $6 million, and created or retained 352 jobs.

In Virginia, the state’s MEP agency—dubbed GenEdge—works with 200 clients. The program—which receives $1 million a year from the federal government and another $1.5 million in state funding—has helped manufacturers create or retain 11,000 jobs since 2000 and generate $2 billion in additional sales.