Honored Jobs Program Being Cut

    PLYMOUTH — Just as it was nominated for what’s called the Oscar in government programs, a national manufacturing promotion network important to Michigan faces a killer funding cut.

    And a lot of government stars are running to the rescue.

    Congressman Vernon Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., are among the state’s federal legislators who this week announced support for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center and its parent body, the nation’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

    The Plymouth-based center — for which The Right Place Inc. serves as West Michigan’s office — just learned that MEP is one of 15 finalists for the Innovations in American Government Award, a prestigious honor conferred annually through the John F. Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard University.

    Concurrent with that announcement came news that the Bush Administration proposes cutting current MEP funding from $106 million to $39 million.

    According to a Right Place report, the cut would close MEP centers in 16 states and drastically reduce the resources of other centers such as Michigan’s.

    “Consideration for Harvard’s Innovations in American Government Award is proof positive that the MEP program works,” said Ehlers, in announcing support for restoration of funding.

    “As we in Congress look for ways to help bolster the manufacturing sector of our nation’s economy, we would be well-advised to support successful programs like MEP, which provides important support for our small- and medium-sized manufacturers, especially in Michigan.”

    Underscoring Ehlers’ view was Levin, who said, “Small- and medium-sized manufacturers are significant engines of job creation, and the MEP has long been an important resource designed to help these businesses succeed in the competitive marketplace.”

    He said Harvard’s recognition of the MEP underscores the positive impact the program has had, noting that its success included “creating or retaining tens of thousands of jobs across the country, and hundreds here in Michigan.”

    He said the Bush Administration concerns him in proposing cuts in a program that he believes “should be showcased as a model for job creation.”

    Also speaking in support of restored funding were Congressmen Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland, and Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, plus U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and much of the rest of Michigan’s Congressional delegation: Democrats Sander Levin, John Conyers, John Dingell, Dale Kildee, Bart Stupak and Carolyn Kilpatrick, and Republicans Joe Knollenberg, Thaddeus McCotter, Candice Miller and Mike Rogers.

    As a part of MEP, the Michigan center provides small- and medium-sized manufacturers with assessment, technical assistance, support and engineering services, and business advice.

    Michigan manufacturers who completed projects with the center in 2002 reported sales gains of $70.8 million, investments of $15.8 million, and 870 jobs created or retained as a direct result of their work with the center.

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