WASHINGTON—Congress has voted to restore funding to the federal Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program.

In February, Congress approved $105.9 million to fund the MEP this year. Administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the MEP is a network of nonprofit centers that provide technical assistance and business support services to America’s small manufacturers.

With 400 locations across the United States and Puerto Rico, the MEP centers help manufacturers adopt new technologies, processes and business practices.

Last fall, the Bush administration proposed to cut the MEP’s 2003 budget by 88%, from $106.5 million to $12.9 million. However, manufacturing organizations and the National Governors Association opposed the cut, and the vote to restore funding received strong bipartisan support in Congress.

“Members of Congress know MEP is a smart investment,” says Mike Wojcicki, president of the Modernization Forum, the trade association for MEP centers. “MEP helps small businesses stay open and teaches them how to invest and expand wisely.”