MLive/Saginaw News: Sen. Peters' research-boosting bill could help local manufacturers

SAGINAW, MI — A bill aimed mostly at improving the impact of federally funded science and technology research would hit closer to home, impacting local manufacturers in Saginaw County.

The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084) was approved by the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on June 29 and will next face consideration the Senate floor.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan.

If signed into law, it would take several steps to help maximize the return on investment of federal money provided for scientific research and provide a 4 percent increase in funding provided to the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The bill would extend federal funding commitments for training programs used by local companies such as Thomas Township's Fullerton Tool.

In May, Peters visited the cutting tool manufacturer's facility in Saginaw County's Great Lakes Tech Park, located near Graham and Gratiot (M-46).The Thomas Township facility, where Fullerton Tool expanded in 2015, is filled with precision machinery used to produce the carbide cutting tools used in a variety of industries.

After touring the facility, the senator explained Fullerton Tool's recent success is at least partially due to the Michigan Manufacturer Extension Partnership.

Fullerton Tool President Patrick Curry agreed, explaining that the high-level training the program provides has helped his company achieve a level of efficiency that has enabled its business to grow.

"We like to say we guarantee profit improvements for our customers, and that's what we're all about," he said. "The MEP has been a great organization for Fullerton Tool, a real partner for us in lean manufacturing and for improving our techniques."

The public/private partnership, administered statewide by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, devotes federal funding to training and educational opportunities for more than 470 small and medium-sized manufacturers in the state.

Federal funding for the program is set to be phased out over the next several years, something Peters said could threaten the positive impact it is having in communities like Saginaw.

As well as its impacts on research, the bill cosponsored by the Michigan senator would also ensure federal cost sharing for the MEP is maintained at 50 percent.

The bill was introduced in April and is awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate.

Peters also cosponsored a bill — the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Improvement Act (S. 2779) — introduced April 12 that would focus solely on permanently extending federal support for the program.

That bill has also been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, but has not yet been brought before that committee for a vote.

By:  Mark Tower
Source: MLive/Saginaw News