WASHINGTON—Action by the House Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee has cast more doubt on America’s small manufacturers and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), according to the Modernization Forum, the trade association for the MEP centers. The subcommittee chose to partially restore funding for MEP’s 2004 fiscal year, which had been cut, but to only one-third the current level.

MEP, a public/private program, provides small manufacturers with technical assistance and business support services. The House subcommittee plans to reduce funding to $39.6 million. The Bush administration had proposed cutting spending to $12.6 million, effectively eliminating the national program, according to the Modernization Forum.

The House bill must be approved first by the full Appropriations Committee and then the full House. The Senate has yet to consider the 2004 CJS Appropriations bill.

“Cutting back MEP would leave small manufacturers across the country without a key ally in their battle to survive,” says Mike Wojcicki, president of the Modernization Forum.

U.S. manufacturing has experienced 33 consecutive months of net job loss, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“As the jobless rate soars, we need smart investments like MEP to keep high-performing manufacturers and related jobs here in the United States,” Wojcicki says. “MEP has a proven track record.”

A study by the U.S. Census Bureau found that MEP clients experience productivity gains more than four times greater than comparable firms.