by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Every March, manufacturers from across the country visit Capitol Hill along with representatives from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers. Their mission: to emphasize the importance of U.S. manufacturing, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s MEP program, to our national and regional economy. Via individual meetings and public hearings, the message from manufacturers is typically focused on how their businesses have been positively impacted by the assistance received from MEP centers across the country.

Last year’s Hill Day was abruptly halted due to the rapid spread of the new virus that we are all very familiar with now. COVID-19 continues to impact events everywhere, but Hill Day 2021 will go off next month – in a virtual way – and is planned as a week instead of a day – from March 1-5. As in previous years, the event(s) will be coordinated with the help of the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC), a trade association who advocates for legislative and programmatic resources that allow small and medium-sized manufacturers to better compete in the global marketplace. This year, the focus of the meetings is sure to be how companies have endured through challenges of the pandemic, how their innovation and resilience has helped them pivot in the ‘what’ and ‘how’ they manufacture, and the COVID-19 resources and support provided by their regional MEP center. As a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the nationwide network of MEP centers served over 27,574 small and mid-sized manufacturers last year. Those companies reported, via a third-party survey, $13 billion in new or retained sales, $2.7 billion in cost savings, and $4.9 billion in regional investment and expansion as a result of their MEP engagements. In addition, those companies added and maintained 105,748 full-time manufacturing jobs as direct impacts of the MEP services they received.

Regional manufacturing executives, as well as staff from NWIRC, will be part of a delegation to meet with Pennsylvania’s Congressional members during this year’s Hill Week. They will promote the value of the MEP program and cite the impact that NWIRC, the MEP Center that serves manufacturers across 13-counties of northwest and north central Pennsylvania, has had on their businesses and the local industrial economy. Over the last twelve months, NWIRC’s completed projects with manufacturing companies resulted in reported impact of $15.6M in new sales, $71.6M in retained sales, $9.5M in cost savings, and 581 new or retained jobs. In addition, companies reported $19.3M of investment in new technology, expansion and innovation*.

We thank the numerous manufacturers in our region who have supported the MEP program over the years, by participating in Hill Day events and most recently by offering letters of support to our PA State Senators and House Representatives. We are always looking for more voices to join our manufacturing advocacy efforts. This year, the call-to-action is more convenient than ever. Without the burden of traveling to Washington DC, the virtual sessions over the course of a week offer a flexible opportunity for you to participate. Because of this, it’s anticipated that more manufacturers than ever will be participating from across the country- companies from all sizes, sectors, and facing the same and perhaps unique challenges. Lending your voice during these advocacy activities helps, not only NWIRC, but U.S. manufacturing as a whole. If you would like to participate with Hill Day (Week) this March or another time in the future, please reach out to me or our staff to help get you connected. This is the time to rebuild the competitive advantage for manufacturing, and the MEP program is a tool to get this done. The benefits of the MEP are far reaching, not just for manufacturing companies and their employees, but for communities at large.

*Client reported impact comes from surveys conducted by a NIST MEP third-party