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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2003

For more information please contact:
Muriel Mosher
Tel: 207-623-0680

Maine MEP President Testifies Before Sen. Olympia Snowe

AUGUSTA, ME - The United States is facing a national crisis in its manufacturing community that could be devastating to our economic survival and way of life, according to Rod Rodrigue, president of the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Maine MEP).

Testifying today in Lewiston at the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship field hearing chaired by U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, Rodrigue said, “Make no mistake. We are at economic war to protect our jobs, our production capacity, our infrastructure of innovation, our economy and our way of life.

“We need to approach this war like any other, with total focus on a positive outcome by assembling all the resources necessary for victory by adopting an unselfish dedication to the national purpose,” Rodrigue added.

“It’s no secret that manufacturers in Maine have had a difficult time weathering the past three years, and the effects have been dramatic for both large corporations and the small businesses that make up the vast majority of businesses in Maine,” said Rodrigue.

“In fact, the statistics speak for themselves - Maine has lost 17,300 manufacturing jobs over the past three years,” he added.

The hearing was called in order to hear what a cross section of individuals involved in Maine manufacturing had to say on the impact China trade has had on Maine manufacturers. In addition to Rodrigue, other witnesses appearing before the committee included top federal administrators and local manufacturers.

Grant Aldonas, the Commerce Department’s Undersecretary for International Trade and Pamela Olson, the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy in the Treasury Department were among the federal officials testifying. The second panel included Bruce Pulkkenin, president and CEO of Windham Millwork and board member of the National Association of Manufacturing, and Rodrigue.

While complimenting Snowe for being “a consistent champion for small manufacturers and the MEP system,” Rodrigue said, “your vision and leadership has never been needed more than it is right now.

“The men and women who go to work every day in our factories deserve the basic human dignity of being assured of their rightful place in building wealth for their families, their state, and our nation.”

Rodrigue also outlined several suggestions he believes will help the United States turn the corner on its manufacturing woes. He presented three ideas for consideration.

“One, we must streamline the transfer of technologies from the federal laboratories and universities to small manufacturing enterprises,” he said. “Second, we should strive to remove the barriers that limit small manufacturing enterprises’ access to federal contracts and expand market opportunities.

“And third, we must facilitate entry and strengthen small manufacturing enterprises into the defense and commercial supply chains,” Rodrigue said.

He presented written testimony outlining the reasoning behind each of his proposals and the steps that must be taken to ensure success for each of his three areas of concern.

Rodrigue summed up his feelings by telling the committee, “We need to refocus the resources we have throughout the federal government into one single program in support of manufacturing. “If we succeed,” he concluded, with emphasis, “we will stabilize, reinvigorate and rejuvenate our manufacturing base.”

The Maine MEP is an affiliate of the NIST under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2000 manufacturing and business “coaches” whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits, and enhanced global competitiveness. For more information on the Maine MEP program call 1-800-637-4634.


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