U.S. Senate could boost LI manufacturers

Joseph Pizzimenti: Lawmakers "keenly aware" that small manufacturers need assistance.

Small and medium-sized manufacturers on Long Island and elsewhere will have a better chance to thrive if bipartisan legislation to improve a nationwide manufacturer-support program survives its trip through Congress.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership Improvement Act, introduced in April by U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), would expand and make improvements to the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The Hollings MEP is a public-private partnership managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and one of the nation’s oldest physical sciences laboratories.

The Hollings MEP is dedicated to providing technical support and services to small and medium-sized manufacturers through a series of regional centers, with an eye on creating and retaining manufacturing jobs while streamlining operations and maximizing profits.

Joseph Pizzimenti, director at Garden City-based accounting firm Margolin, Winer & Evens, said the bill would complement efforts by New York State officials to boost Long Island manufacturing, representing a “first salvo” of federal assistance.

State and federal officials are “keenly aware that there is more that can be done for American small businesses,” Pizzimenti noted.

The Improvement Act proposes increased federal support for MEP centers, which could be affiliated with an institution of higher education, a state or local government or a United States-based nonprofit institution. The bill calls for a permanent 50-50 split in cost sharing for MEP programs between government and private businesses.

Other highlights of the proposed legislation:

  • A clarification of the MEP Center review process
  • Recompetition of MEP Center awards every 10 years
  • Authorization for MEP Centers to support the development of manufacturing-related apprenticeship, internship and industry-recognized certification programs
  • A requirement that the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership develop open-access resources that describe best practices for small U.S. manufacturers

The proposed legislation also repeals the current six-year limit on federal finance assistance to MEP Centers and, perhaps most significantly, increases funding to the Hollings MEP program to $260 million annually through 2020.

Craig Savell: Not easy for LI manufacturers.

Craig Savell: Not easy for LI manufacturers.

The bill, officially introduced April 12 by Coons, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Although considered a longshot by some – federal legislation follower GovTrack gives bill S. 2779 an 11 percent chance of getting out of committee and a 4 percent shot at being enacted – insiders say the need to increase federal support for small-scale manufacturers is clear, particularly in economically challenged regions.

Margolin Winer Partner Craig Savell noted the proposed legislation wouldn’t immediately herald the Long Island return of brand-name manufacturing operations like Grumman Aerospace Corp., now part of Northrop Grumman.

But Savell, who manages Margolin Winer’s manufacturing and distribution-tax programs, said any assistance for struggling regional manufacturers would help.

“The cost of manufacturing is so prohibitive on Long Island, between the cost of real estate and the cost of labor,” Savell told Innovate LI. “It makes it very difficult for them to sustain themselves.”

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