U.S. Senator Herb Kohl led an effort yesterday to continue funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program in the Fiscal Year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. A total of 32 senators signed Kohl's letter to the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee supporting the MEP program. MEP centers help employers upgrade their technology, streamline production processes, eliminate cost inefficiencies and train workers to adapt to evolving technologies. Senator Kohl is joined by Senators Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in the effort.
"A strong and growing manufacturing sector is vital to our economic recovery. Manufacturing is the largest sector of Wisconsin's economy and has contributed nearly half of the new jobs that have been added to Wisconsin's workforce in the last year. There is no doubt that the good work done by our two MEP centers contributed to that growth. This smart investment -- leveraging federal, state and private dollars -- merits continued support."
Last year, Kohl led a bipartisan effort to include $129.7 million for the MEP program as part of the Senate's FY2011 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill. Ultimately, the MEP program received $128.4 million in the final FY2011 appropriations bill -- one of the few programs to see an increased budget over FY2010. Additionally, Kohl's provisions increasing the authorization for the MEP were included in the bipartisan America COMPETES Reauthorization Act which was signed into law in January 2011.
Kohl has long championed the MEP program for its success in ensuring major Wisconsin employers can remain competitive. Wisconsin is home to two MEP Centers. According to the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, companies that worked with the two centers in the past twelve months were able to save or create more than 1,300 jobs, generate $102 million in sales, make $37 million in new investments, and produce more than $20 million in cost savings.
According to the most recent employment numbers released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the state has added 26,400 private sector jobs this year, including 13,100 manufacturing jobs.