Building Stronger Partnerships for Manufacturing


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Carroll Thomas, Director of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Carroll Thomas, Director of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Guest blog post by Carroll Thomas, Director, Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Strong relationships with state leaders and institutions have been the foundation of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for all of the program’s 25+ years. Through centers and field offices in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the MEP system provides a mechanism to integrate federal and state public policy goals, respond to market forces and address the needs of manufacturing sectors and of individual manufacturers.

Nurturing the relationships that underpin this work and making sure they are effective takes effort. This is particularly true at the state level, given the number of states in which we operate and the differences in their economies, markets, culture, political philosophies and spending priorities. Add to that the fact that elected and appointed officials come and go and public policy priorities shift.

To help the centers ensure strong partnerships at the state level, in December 2015 we invited proposals for the MEP State Partnerships Support Project. The purpose of the project is to generate strategies, market intelligence and analytical resources to support the efforts of MEP centers, our main MEP office here at NIST and the nation’s manufacturers. 

Despite the many differences between states, we realized there were core activities that would need to underpin the work, including collecting and analyzing data and researching current practices and trends. We want the program to expand the network of leaders who support manufacturing and MEP’s work, help centers better align their work with state priorities and increase state support of MEP’s work.

We seek to balance the priorities of U.S. national policy with those of state partners to create a robust and effective program that will give U.S. manufacturers the tools they need to grow and remain globally competitive. Our goals for this effort actually go beyond state-based partners to include those at the county, community and city levels, as well as regional partners that extend beyond state boundary lines.

To realize this vision, we have just awarded a 5-year, nearly $4.5 million cooperative agreement to a non-profit team formed by SSTI and the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC). SSTI is a national organization dedicated to improving initiatives that support prosperity through science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. CREC provides policy makers from around the world with the information and technical assistance they need to formulate and execute innovative, regional job-creating economic strategies.

Together, they will help advance MEP’s network of relationships with state stakeholders and partners to help achieve its mission of improving productivity and technological performance in United States manufacturing.

An effective public/private partnership is critical to realizing our mission of enhancing the productivity of U.S. manufacturers, and successful partnerships are based on finding the right alignment of interests.   With a strong State Partnerships Support program, the MEP network will be able to align interests to create wins for manufacturers and their respective communities across the country. 

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Last updated: 2018-02-25 04:29

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