The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) opened a competition to award new cooperative funding agreements for its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in 10 states. The competition is the first in a multiyear effort to update the funding structure to better match needs with resources in MEP's network of 60 centers. The MEP centers help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money.
The current competition will fund awards for centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The awards will provide half of each center's first-year operating funds, which the centers must match with funding from nonfederal sources. MEP anticipates awarding a total of nearly $26 million for the 10 centers.
"MEP has seen great success during its first 26 years of existence. This new award competition will allow us to continue to get the most out of our federal investment and better meet the changing needs of U.S. manufacturers," said Phil Singerman, acting MEP director and NIST associate director for Innovation and Industry Services.
Established in 1988, MEP is a public-private partnership that delivers a high return on investment to taxpayers. 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 directly with area manufacturers to provide expertise and services tailored to their most 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 competition announced today will give MEP the opportunity to reset the funding levels of these centers and reduce the variation in funding among them.
U.S.-based nonprofit institutions or organizations, including existing MEP centers, are eligible to participate in the competition.
This first competition will serve as a demonstration to ensure the process of re-competing all 60 centers will not disrupt the MEP system or degrade its performance. It also will allow for the testing and refinement of procedures, milestones and resource requirements.
The cooperative agreements have a five-year period of performance. Continued funding for the remaining years of each center's cooperative agreement will be awarded by MEP on a non-competitive basis, and may be adjusted higher or lower from year to year of the award, contingent upon satisfactory performance, continued relevance to the mission and priorities of the program, and the availability of funds. During the five-year period, the mandatory cost-share increases after the third renewal, 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 14 business days from the release of the Federal Funding Opportunity. Details on the webinar will be available at http://www.nist.gov/mep/ffo_state-competitions.cfm. Full details on the competition and award process can be found at https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-18264.