WASHINGTON, D.C.-More than 60 manufacturing associations nationwide have joined forces to warn policymakers of a growing crisis for small manufacturers. In letters to President Bush and Congressional Appropria-tions leaders, The National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Congress, National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing, and the National Tooling and Machining Associations, along with other associations across the country, urge policymakers to restore funding to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

MEP helps small manufacturers remain competitive in the global marketplace by providing technical assistance, support services, engineering services and business advice to small manufacturers. The MEP program's budget for fiscal year (FY) 2004 is $39 million-63% less than last year. The president requested the same amount for FY 2005.

Under the current funding level, the associations say, "11,000 fewer manufacturers will receive MEP services. They will lose $1.7 billion in sales; their costs will be $425 million higher; and they will not invest $585 million in plant modernization. We cannot allow this slide to continue."

The letter also notes recent recognition of MEP by Harvard University and the BizBest publishers. The Ash Institute at Harvard selected MEP as one of 15 finalists for its Innovations in American Government Award. MEP also was named one of America's "100 Best Resources for Small Business" in the BizBest 2004 Guide.

In letters to President Bush and the leaders of the House and Senate Commerce-Justice-State Appropria-tions Subcommittees, the associations urge funding to MEP be restored "to prevent the further dismantling of this valuable resource to America's manufacturers."

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership helps the nation's 355,000 small manufacturers adopt new technologies, processes and business practices and improve the productivity and competitiveness of American manufacturing. The MEP network is made up of more than 1,800 professionals working in 400 offices nationwide and in Puerto Rico.