Nathan Phelps –
ASHWAUBENON — A joint program between the federal government, the state and private business has helped
The Manufacturing Extension Partnership was front and center Wednesday during a visit to the Ashwaubenon metal and stainless steel fabricator by U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, and U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton.
"The work we did with (Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership) to establish our … certification has put us in a position to get work that is required to be made in America," said John West, president of Fox Valley Metal-Tech. "WMEP helped us get certified very quickly, and that started us winning quite a bit more work with government-type contracts."
Manufacturing Extension Partnership is a program designed to help American manufacturers "use innovation to grow their profitability as they compete for customers in the global marketplace."
Field staff from the program work with manufacturers to solve problems and find growth opportunities.
Fox Valley Metal-Tech has 106 employees and is hiring, West said. Without the ISO certification they may not have been able to maintain that employment level.
"Because of the economy, most of our commercial customers in the area are struggling so government work has offset that downturn," he said.
Kohl is supporting pending legislation to fund the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to the tune of $129.7 million. The legislation is waiting consideration in the Senate, according to Kohl’s office.
"It’s not huge in terms of its cost, but it’s huge in terms of its impact because it allows companies like (Fox Valley Metal Tech) to grow … and increase employment," he said. "The program does work. If it didn’t work, private operations … would not be interested in engaging with it."
David Townsend, northeast team leader with Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said he expects to see more manufacturing jobs returning to the
"We’re going to see more and more manufacturing coming back here," he said. "We’ve seen a trickle, and I think it’s going to be a flood."
Kohl and Kagen said small business will be the driver of the economic recovery.
Kagen said he is backing the Make it in America Act of 2010 designed to give tax credits and other incentives to American companies while requiring government to purchase some items — renewable fuels or alternative energy sources, for example — from American producers.
"It means we’re going to balance our trade deals, and we’re going to make sure businesses … have tax credits for hiring people and keeping them gainfully employed," he said. "And making sure they have the tax credits necessary to be profitable. It’s that public partnership with private industry that is going to move us forward."