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Bargain Hunters

They've found your source of cheap consulting, and they're turning off the tap.

This story appears in the July 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Small manufacturers struggling for profits may no longer be able to count on inexpensive consulting from about 400 technical assistance centers nationwide. Those centers receive about one-third of their budget from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a federal program run by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST). President Bush wants to pull federal funding from nearly all the centers.

The centers consult on process improvement, quality management systems, business management systems and other areas. Besides federal funds, they depend on state and local funding for another third of their budget and client fees for the remaining third. In at least 34 states, state funding is linked to federal funding, according to Michael Wojcicki, president of the Modernization Forum, the trade association for MEP centers. As a result, President Bush's proposal to slash federal funding from $106.5 million to $12.9 million in fiscal 2003 could seriously impair the centers' ability to operate.

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