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John Currier, of Currier Plastics, speaks to members of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council at Currier Plastics during a tour of the Auburn manufacturer's facility in 2016.

In the first quarter of 2018 alone, manufacturing contributed $2.33 trillion to the economy of the United States, and the 12.75 million workers employed in manufacturing jobs account for 8.6 percent of the workforce, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

According to the association’s most recently available data, manufacturing employs 4.6 percent of the workforce in New York, approximately 436,000 people, producing $72.94 billion worth of total output in 2017.

While such gargantuan numbers might bring to mind images of giant factories and equally large businesses operating them, the association reports that three quarters of the nation’s 251,744 manufacturing firms have fewer than 20 employees.

To help ensure manufacturers, especially those considered small and mid-sized, are able to not only sustain themselves but continue to grow their business, the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership works to connect manufacturers with the services they need to thrive.

A part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s nationwide Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the NY MEP is a private-public partnership focused around the goal of helping manufacturers overcoming barriers to growth and becoming more competitive versions of themselves.

New York’s MEP, which is administered by the state’s Empire State Development Corp.’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation, maintains 10 regional MEP centers and one statewide center, each with unique specializations to help promote the growth of manufacturing in the state.

If a manufacturer finds they’re facing a problem, such as using too much material or an inability to train managers in new skills, the MEP centers are able to directly provide services to address issues like process improvements, quality control, scaling, supply-chains, product development and prototyping and more.

The NY MEPs also act as matchmakers of sorts by connecting manufacturers with industry experts and other resources or programs outside the centers to further improve their businesses.

FuzeHub, the statewide MEP center, worked with manufacturers to help support 5,433 new or retained jobs in 2017, and generated $929 million in cost-savings, new investments or increased and retained sales, according to a release.

Just in central New York, MEP programs helped create or retain 700 jobs in the region and accounting for $62 million in impacts made in regional manufacturing in 2017, according to the release.

“From startups to Fortune 1000 companies, the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership serves the makers, creators and innovators keeping New York competitive,” FuzeHub Executive Director Elena Garuc said.

In Cayuga County, Auburn-based Currier Plastics worked with the central New York regional MEP to increase training and qualified resources at the company. With the center’s help, Currier developed a series of training programs, with the resulting efficiencies leading to faster and more effective training times for employees, according to a release from FuzeHub.

After completing a $21 million expansion in 2013, Currier already announced a second expansion in 2017, with a $9.9 million investment to expand into the medical industry products.

While FuzeHub is responsible for running MEP programs at a statewide level, it’s also heavily involved in pushing for further innovation in the manufacturing field through its work with startups and the tech industry.

Since 2016, FuzeHub’s Jeff Lawrence Manufacturing Innovation Fund, named after a former executive vice president at the Capital Region’s MEP center, has awarded more than $1.3 million to twenty non-profit groups working in high tech projects throughout the state.

For example, in 2017, Syracuse University received $75,000 from the fund to create an Advanced HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) Testbed at the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems in partnership with NuClimate Air Quality Systems. NuClimate will make the first use of the facility to test a new HVAC product that they expect, when commercialized, can increase sales revenue by 50-percent, creating 10 new jobs.

A separate part of the fund goes to supporting FuzeHub’s Commercialization Competition, a two-day pitch competition where businesses compete for award funding to help launch their ideas. In 2018, the competition’s winners included three different Ithaca-based firms that were focused on converting dairy waste into valuable chemicals, micro-greenhouses, and mobile nutrition deficiency.

More information on FuzeHub and the various regional NY MEP centers can be found at https://esd.ny.gov/new-york-manufacturing-extension-partnership.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin

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