Funding Keeps Centers Open


    WASHINGTON, DC — Grand Rapids’ congressman yesterday applauded the restoration of budget cuts which would have jeopardized Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers such as that at The Right Place Inc.

    Vern Ehlers — a 5-term Republican who chairs the Environment, Technology, and Standards Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science — said MEP centers are critical in the modernization of manufacturing in America.

    “And they are engines of job creation,” he added. “I applaud the successful efforts of the Department of Commerce to secure additional funding for MEP. This is a first step in restoring the MEP program to its original strength.”

    Ehlers made his remarks after the Science Committee’s chairman and ranking minority member — Sherwood Boehlert, R-New York, and Bart Gordon, D-Tenn.— announced emergency funding had been secured to keep the centers open.

    A network of 59 MEP centers and hundreds of satellite offices provide technical advice to small and medium-sized manufacturers to help them remain globally competitive. Ehlers said the centers are considered one of the federal government’s most successful programs which has been credited with helping save or create tens of thousands of jobs nationwide.

    The 2004 fiscal year appropriation cut the MEP program by more than 60 percent, from the FY 2003 level of $106 million to $39 million.

    Though both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees had supported restoration of full MEP funding, the appropriations bill that funds the program for FY 2005, which began this month, has not yet been enacted.

    Congress’s Continuing Resolution that keeps funds flowing to federal agencies is based on the FY 2004 appropriation, a funding level that would likely lead to the closure of several MEP centers.    

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