Legislation Seeks to Revamp Manufacturing Program

The Senate Task Force on Manufacturing on Wednesday introduced legislation designed to aid a special, public-private network of centers that assist small and medium-sized manufacturers.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership helps manufacturers expand operations, become more efficient, increase sales and create jobs. The centers currently must provide two-thirds of their funding after four years of operation by raising money from state governments, the private sector and colleges and universities.

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology oversees the program and provides one-third of its funding. This legislation would reduce the centers' cost share to 50 percent of funding for all years of operation.

The task force includes Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who is the top Republican on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Snowe said the bill will give the centers "much-needed relief so that they may focus on providing counseling and training services to the small and medium manufacturers that are struggling to grow."

The White House in recent years had sought to eliminate the program through lack of funding in its budget proposal, but lawmakers shot that down and continued to fund it.

By Sharon McLoone |  March 26, 2009; 7:30 AM ET Policymakers , Regulation Legislation
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