The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the award of new cooperative agreements to 10 nonprofit organizations and universities to manage Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers. NIST’s MEP program helps small- and mid-size manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits and save time and money. In an open competition, the existing MEP centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, were selected to receive a total of $26 million in federal funding, an increase of about $10 million or nearly 60 percent. The funding will allow the centers to reach new customers and offer new services.
“We are excited to award new agreements that bring increased funding levels to better meet the needs of manufacturers in these 10 states,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May. “These awards will allow the centers to help more manufacturers reach their goals in growth and innovation, which will have a positive impact on both their communities and the U.S. economy.”
In August 2014, NIST announced a competition for the centers in these 10 states as the first step in a multi-year effort to update MEP’s funding structure to better match resources with needs. In March 2014, the Government Accountability Office recommended that MEP update its distribution of funds, which were allocated according to the award each center received when it was first established. The original awards to these states were made more than 10 years ago, and the MEP investment in terms of dollars per manufacturing establishment was below its national average, making them the most underfunded of MEP’s 60 centers.
Proposals were reviewed by government and independent experts and evaluated against a number of criteria, including demonstration of a thorough understanding of market needs and how proposed service offerings would meet those needs. The reviewers also looked at the proposed business models, performance measurements and metrics, partnership potential, staff qualifications and program management, as well as financial and non-federal cost-share plans.
The new cooperative agreements are for five years, subject to the availability of annual appropriations and successful annual reviews.