For 18 years, West Virginia University has led the state's Manufacturing Extension Partnership, providing consulting services to help manufacturers innovate, compete and grow. That work will continue for the next five years, thanks to $2.5 million in funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
WVU was one of nine organizations to receive funding to operate an MEP center in their respective state.
"During the past five year period, the WVMEP delivered 720 assistance projects to more than 200 manufacturing clients, resulting in $33 million in new sales and $139 million in retained sales,' said Gerald Biser, associate director of industrial extension at WVU. "Our work created and retained more than 1,600 jobs in the state.
"I'm thrilled that, due to renewed funding, we will be able to continue our efforts that lead our clients toward a more competitive position domestically and globally and result in a more robust manufacturing environment in West Virginia."
"There's no question the MEP program has helped make thousands of manufacturers stronger," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Willie E. May. "These new agreements will allow the centers to provide increased support and reach new customers."
According to the U.S. Census, West Virginia has 1,248 manufacturers in the state. Of those companies, 85 percent have less than 50 employees.
"The WVMEP has served clients in this small- to medium-size markets across many industry segments," Biser said. "Our extensive team, which includes extension agents, management staff, third-party resources, state and university partners, advisory committee members and key state organizations, are committed to improving and growing manufacturing in West Virginia."
Potential growth areas according to Biser included innovation services, export training and development and business transformation services.
For every dollar of federal investment, MEP clients generate nearly $19 in new sales, which translates into $2.5 billion annually. And for every $2,001 of federal investment, MEP creates or retains one U.S. manufacturing job. Since 1988, MEP has worked with nearly 80,000 manufacturers, leading to $88 billion in sales and $14 billion in cost savings, and it has helped create more than 729,000 jobs.
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 looked at proposed business models, performance measurements and metrics, partnership potential, staff qualifications and program management, as well as financial and non-federal cost-share plans.
"These new agreements will improve our processes and help the centers better align with local economic strategies," said MEP Director Carroll Thomas. "They will also open up new opportunities to allow the centers to serve new customers."
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