by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

It’s budget planning season at both the Federal and State levels, and in both cases, there are many programs under the magnifying glass for possible elimination or significant cuts. The proposed Federal budget, released in mid-March with removal of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), seems contradictory to President Trump’s agenda to expand manufacturing and manufacturing jobs. MEP is a public-private partnership with Centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, dedicated to serving small and medium-sized manufacturers. MEP is vital to the manufacturing supply chain across the nation serving the Defense, Aerospace, and Automotive industries among many others. As a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the nationwide MEP network last year served over 25,000 small and mid-sized manufacturers and those companies reported $9.3 billion in increased revenue, $1.4 billion in cost savings and $3.5 billion in regional investment and expansion as a result of their MEP engagements. In addition, a third-party verified that those companies added and maintained 86,602 full-time manufacturing jobs as direct impacts of the MEP services they received. Last year, the average annual earnings for a manufacturing job was $64,305 from which employees  contributed federal and state taxes.

NWIRC President Bob Zaruta reviews support letters from NW PA manufacturers with Congressman Glenn Thompson.

NWIRC is part of the MEP network and recently traveled to Washington D.C. with other Centers and manufacturers from across the country to advocate the importance of this program to America’s manufacturing economy. Manufacturers in our 13-county footprint have written letters of support for the services that MEP Centers provide and we hand-delivered letters from over 40 companies to our elected Senators and Congressmen, which are just a sampling of companies who have benefitted from the services of NWIRC. These letters represent over 3000 employees in our region. Ashleigh Walters, President of Onex, Inc. in Erie PA, was part of a large delegation to promote the value of the MEP program and spoke at a congressional hearing, organized by PA Congressman Glenn Thompson, about how her company benefitted from the services of NWIRC.

NWIRC completed projects with over 80 companies last year,  resulting in their  realization of $34.6 million in additional revenue, $5 million in cost savings and $8.1million in investments in new technology, expansion and innovation. Companies that worked with NWIRC over the past year attributed the creation and retention of 412 manufacturing jobs to their services.

An opportunity is fast-approaching to advocate for the MEP program at the State level as well. As part of the PA MEP, NWIRC will participate in Hill Day at our Capitol in Harrisburg on April 25th. Ninety-percent of manufacturing companies in PA are under 100 employees, many of them in rural areas. A high percentage rely heavily on their relationship with an MEP and do not use other consulting firms. It’s these small and rural manufacturers that will be most affected with changes to the MEP program. These companies play a critical role in the communities where they reside.

We thank the numerous manufacturers in our region that have supported the MEP program over the years and recently with their letters. This is the time to rebuild the competitive advantage for manufacturing and the MEP program is a tool to get this done. We remain positive that our legislative champions and supporters will prevail in the budgetary process and encourage others to reach out to their policymakers. The benefits of the MEP are far reaching, not just for manufacturing companies and their employees, but for communities at large.