U.S. Dept. of Commerce partners with CIRAS to help Iowa Manufacturers

AMES, Iowa – Iowa manufacturers are projected to receive up to $37 million in research-based, business-improving services over the next 10 years after U.S. Dept. of Commerce officials on Friday moved to renew the department’s longstanding relationship with Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS).

The award means CIRAS will continue to serve as Iowa’s affiliate of the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturers Extension Partnership (MEP), a nationwide network of centers created to enhance the performance of U.S. manufacturing. Through this partnership, CIRAS will continue providing services to help small- to mid-sized manufacturers improve their businesses and will add new services to help all Iowa manufacturers navigate rapidly changing technologies and business models.

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CIRAS, which has operated the MEP program in Iowa since 2005, won the five-year renewal following an open statewide competition. This investment by the NIST MEP compliments significant investments by Iowa State University, the state of Iowa, and CIRAS’ many partners to transform and strengthen manufacturing. Based on recent history, CIRAS anticipates that this investment will create an economic impact of more than $2.7 billion in Iowa over the next five years.

“This decision is MEP’s expression of confidence in CIRAS and our ability to understand and respond to the needs of Iowa manufacturers,” said Mike O’Donnell, CIRAS’ director of the MEP program. “Change is coming to the U.S. manufacturing industry, and many Iowa companies still need to get ready for it. CIRAS is focused on helping them not only to survive the changes, but to thrive.”

Mike O’Donnell

The award means CIRAS will receive $9 million in federal funding over the next five years – money that will be matched with state, university, and private investment to create a total five-year program budget of roughly $18.6 million.

Renewal for a second five-year period is likely, under MEP rules, if centers continue to perform well. O’Donnell, citing CIRAS’ high scores on internal MEP assessments, said Iowa has been one of the best-performing centers in the country over the past two years.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll be helping Iowa manufacturers for at least the next decade,” said CIRAS Director Ron Cox. ”MEP is a crucial part of the vast network of experts that CIRAS uses to help its clients, and we’re pleased that those relationships will continue.”

Cox also thanked CIRAS’ partners, as well as Iowa State University President Steven Leath, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Mike Crum, Iowa State’s vice president for economic development and business engagement. All wrote formal letters of support endorsing CIRAS as the MEP affiliate.

Ron Cox

Founded in 1963 as an extension arm of Iowa State’s College of Engineering, CIRAS has spent more than 50 years providing proven, research-based services to businesses across the state. CIRAS experts help Iowa manufacturers thrive by providing services centered around enterprise leadership, growth, technology and productivity. Assistance provided to any particular company may range from technical management or metallurgical help to advice on marketing or pursuing government contracts. CIRAS staffers engage with companies in every corner of Iowa to first assess what firms need, then educate them about best practices around the nation and the world. Once a path has been determined, CIRAS  works with the company for as long as it takes to embed positive change.

CIRAS employees have a combined 580 years of experience either working in the manufacturing industry or serving as outside company advisors, and staffers maintain key relationships with researchers in all corners of Iowa State. The MEP connection means CIRAS also can provide Iowa clients with access to a vast network of additional experts stretching throughout all 50 states.

CIRAS and its network of partners provided assistance to 3,787 distinct Iowa businesses in calendar years 2011 through 2015. Clients estimated that 28,653 jobs either were created or retained during that period because of CIRAS involvement.

More than 224,000 Iowans now work in manufacturing jobs at an average wage of $54,420, making it the second-highest paying industry sector in Iowa. The state is home to 3,542 manufacturing firms, roughly 55 percent of which are located in rural counties.

 

For more information, contact Jeff Eckhoff at eckhoffj@iastate.edu or 515-271-7826.