WMEP faces funding cuts under Trump budget

Organization receives about $3 million in federal funding annually

Manufacturing plant

The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership would lose a significant portion of its funding under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

Brinkman
Brinkman

The budget calls for the elimination of $124 million in funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program in the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity, the state’s MEP center, receives funding under the program and utilizes WMEP and the University of Wisconsin-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center to help small and medium-sized manufacturers with improving operations, adopting new technology and expanding exports.

The WCMP has a five-year agreement with NIST that calls for $16.3 million in federal funding to be matched by $21.1 million in non-federal funding. That agreement started in late 2015.

Buckley Brinkman, WCMP executive director and chief executive officer, said the organization receives just over $3 million in federal funding annually, although that money is contingent on having investment from the state and other sources.

“I think folks were just making a point with this,” Brinkman said, noting the MEP program has been on the Heritage Foundation’s list of potential cuts for a number of years.

The foundation says the program amounts to a federally run management consulting operation. Brinkman said the argument has been that kind of operation should be left to the private sector.

“When you start talking about small manufacturers, the economics aren’t there for the normal consulting model to take hold,” Brinkman said. “The big guys can take care of themselves. The also rely on the smaller guys for their supply chains.”

Trump’s budget document says the original intent was for the MEP program to not be federally funded. Brinkman said regardless of the intent, the program has developed into an important resource for small and medium-sized manufacturers. He said the program has had $4 billion worth of impact and helped retain or create 16,000 jobs in its history.

“We care very deeply about the results and we’ve consistently been able to deliver them over two decades,” Brinkman said.

He also noted the MEP program was reauthorized by Congress unanimously last year, suggesting lawmakers didn’t have an issue with the program at that point.

“Nobody’s panicking,” Brinkman said. “At the same time, we’re involved in a bunch of efforts behind the scenes to make sure our story is told to the right people.”

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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