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End of the Road

Budget cuts mean program cuts, but these two programs are ones you may not miss.

By Joshua Kurlantzick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As part of the 2004 federal budget, two Department of Commerceprograms, the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) and theManufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), may be eliminated.Historically, these programs have had strong support on CapitolHill, where advocates claim the programs benefit small companies.The ATP, which has received more than $1.5 billion since 1990, issupposed to provide grants to support R&D at companies thatmight not win commercial funding, while the MEP oversees anationwide network of centers to help manufacturers upgradetechnology and human resources.

But do the programs really benefit small companies? Gary Weaversays yes. "We wanted to hire consultants to help us revamp ourplants but couldn't afford to," explains the president ofTimber Tech, a Cibolo, Texas, company that manufactures housingcomponents. "The local branch of the MEP assessed ouroperations and helped us save tons of money. Before, the waste wecreated was sent to landfills, costing us $35,000 per year, but theMEP taught us to reprocess the waste and sell it as animalbedding."

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