New infusion of fed funding re-energizes NH MEP

At the beginning of 2004, the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership was on the verge of shutting its doors.

Faced with a 60 percent federal budget cut, the program that has helped local manufacturers increase or retain $34.6 million in sales since 1999 would not have had enough money to continue operating.

But, thanks to the efforts of U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, federal aid to the New Hampshire MEP and others around the country has been restored.

“As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and State, Senator Gregg has always been a strong supporter of manufacturers,” said Jack Metzemaekers, NH MEP board member and president of Scott Electronics in Salem. “He worked to restore MEP funding since the cuts were announced back in January and his commitment and support has reinvigorated the NH MEP.”

Several signs point to the renewed strength of the NH MEP, said Metzemaekers, including the appointment of Zenagui Brahim as the new state director of operations, announcement of a program giving small and medium manufacturers access to lucrative but previously unattainable Department of Defense contracts and an educational collaborative with the New Hampshire community technical colleges.

Brahim, a Pelham resident who spent the past year working with the Massachusetts MEP and the Florida MEP, said he is excited to be joining the New Hampshire MEP during a time of organizational growth and change.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for our organization and our state’s manufacturers,” said Brahim. He said his immediate goals include filling two MEP project manager positions and helping launch a new Lean Manufacturing Certification Program, in conjunction with community technical colleges across the state.

Brahim has more than 20 years’ experience in the consulting, manufacturing and training fields, including serving as director of the Institute of Professional and Executive Education at Merrimack College, where he assisted Southern New Hampshire manufacturers in their implementation of quality management systems. He also held positions as director of sales and marketing at ASI and Viti International in Bangkok, Thailand, and as a training specialist for Petrokemya/Union Carbide.

“Appointing Zenagui as director of operations is a sign that the MEP is committed to helping our state’s small and medium sized manufacturers enact changes that make them more competitive and have a positive impact on their bottom line,” said Stu Arnett, director of the state Division of Economic Development.

Metzemaekers said the New Hampshire MEP also is opening doors to new business opportunities through the New England Manufacturing Supply Chain (NEMSC), a database of the capabilities of small and medium manufacturers throughout New England used to match them with large manufacturers, giving the smaller businesses opportunities to access valuable Department of Defense contracts.

“In the past, many New Hampshire manufacturers have simply been too small to be very useful to defense contractors,” said Metzemaekers. “The NEMSC helps team them with other manufacturers locally or across New England, enabling small and medium manufacturers to more easily meet Department of Defense technical specifications or even workforce diversity objectives which might not be possible on their own. Major defense contractors also benefit by having access to a whole new group of potential suppliers, without the need to invest huge sums in the process of identifying and qualifying new sources.”

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