Federal agency opens competition to fund manufacturing centers in Arkansas, 11 other states

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 112 views 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has opened a competition to award new cooperative funding agreements for its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in 12 states and Puerto Rico, including Arkansas.

Arkansas is eligible for $4.856 million in the five-year program. Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions, a program of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, serves as the NIST-MEP center in Arkansas.

The competition continues an ongoing effort to update the program’s funding structure to better match manufacturing industry needs with resources in MEP’s nationwide network. The MEP centers help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits and save time and money.

The competition will fund awards for centers in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Utah and Vermont. MEP anticipates awarding a total of nearly $39 million for up to 13 centers in these locations.

“MEP continues to play a key role in the resurgence of manufacturing in the United States. These new awards provide resources that will assist U.S. industry in remaining as competitive as possible in the current global environment,” said NIST Director Willie May, undersecretary of commerce for Standards and Technology.

The awards provide half of each center’s first-year operating funds, which the centers must match with funding from nonfederal sources. Established in 1988, MEP is a public-private partnership that delivers a high return on investment to taxpayers, according to the agency. For every one dollar of federal investment, MEP helps businesses generate nearly $19 in new sales growth and $21 in new client investment. This translates into $2.2 billion in new sales annually. For every $1,978 of federal investment, MEP helps create or retain one manufacturing job.

Each MEP center works with area manufacturers to provide expertise and services tailored to their critical needs, ranging from process improvement and workforce development to business practices and technology transfer. Through local and national resources, MEP centers have helped thousands of manufacturers reinvent themselves, increase profits, create jobs and establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity.

In March 2014, the Government Accountability Office released a report on MEP recommending changes to its distribution of funds, which were allocated according to the award each center received when it was established as opposed to its current need. The new competition will give MEP the opportunity to reset the funding levels of these centers and match the funding to the centers’ current needs.

U.S.-based nonprofit institutions or organizations, including existing MEP centers, are eligible to participate in the competition. To date, new awards have been made for centers in 20 states.

The cooperative agreements have a five-year period of performance. Continued funding for an additional five-year award may be made by MEP. During the initial five-year period, the mandatory cost-share increases after the third year, up to a maximum two-thirds of the center’s budget for year five and beyond.

MEP will host a webinar for interested parties approximately 15-30 business days from the release of the Federal Funding Opportunity. Full details on the competition and award process can be found in the Federal Register Notice published on Jan. 26, 2015.

Electronic applications for federal funding must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 25, 2016. Paper applications will not be accepted, and those received after the deadline will not be reviewed or considered. The approximate start date for awards under this notice and the corresponding federal funding opportunity is expected to be Oct. 1, 2016.