$1.6M EDA grant aims to help Great Lakes manufacturers hurt by imports

Nov 2016    Contact Alex Piazza, 734-936-3618, apiazza@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Michigan, Ohio and Indiana make up the most industrialized region of the country, but these three states have lost more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing imports have grown by more than $500 billion. A business assistance center at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy plans to use a $1.65 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help import-impacted manufacturers in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana improve their global competitiveness and enhance business growth.

“Though globalization has impacted the entire U.S. economy, it has and continues to affect the Great Lakes region much more strongly,” said Scott Jacobs, director of the U-M Great Lakes Trade Adjustment Assistance Center. “Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are particularly vulnerable to import competition, in part, due to their greater reliance on manufacturing and their geographic location.”

The new grant, which is part of the EDA’s nationwide Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms program, will allow GLTAAC to continue its efforts to help Great Lakes manufacturers through 2021. The $1.65 million grant covers year one of the five-year project.

Initially selected as a TAAF center in 1983, GLTAAC has assisted hundreds of companies across Michigan, Ohio and Indiana over the past 33 years. Through the program, GLTAAC helps trade-injured firms develop and implement customized recovery plans, which includes co-funding specific business improvement projects—from lean manufacturing and sales development to cost accounting and quality certification.

“Manufacturing is important here,” Jacobs said. “There are currently 1.8 million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, and the manufacturing sector is the largest source of worker income in the Great Lakes region. This is true for no other part of the country.”

One company that benefited from GLTAAC is Yoder Lumber, a sawmill and manufacturer of hardwood products in northeast Ohio, which sought assistance after it found itself in a stagnant market and losing business to low-cost Asian imports.

GLTAAC helped Yoder Lumber access $75,000 of project co-funding assistance through TAAF, which the company used to develop a marketing plan, jumpstart sales and implement integrated software systems to better manage their resources. Together, these improvements had a positive impact—during their four years in the program, the company increased sales by 51 percent and grew employment by 23 percent.

“We saw GLTAAC’s assessment of our business, and we literally laid it down beside a special study that our accounting firm had done for us,” said Robert Mapes, president of Yoder Lumber. “GLTAAC hit every point they hit. The main difference was that the accounting firm gave us a skeleton, but GLTAAC gave us a whole complete body and what to do with it and how to do it. And then GLTAAC also provided the one thing no one else could provide, and that was the funding.”

Bremtown Cabinetry, a GLTAAC client in northwest Indiana, used the TAAF program to support worker training, sales and management development initiatives.

“The TAAF program was excellent for Bremtown and had a great impact on our business,” said Bremtown President Tim Johnson.

GLTAAC is a unit of U-M’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy, which aims to empower businesses, governments, industries, communities, entrepreneurs and innovators to attain economic insight by advancing economic and market knowledge. IRLEE is a unit of the U-M Office of Research.

The EDA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, whose mission is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. Its TAAF program is the only federal program specifically designed to help companies that have been negatively impacted by imports.


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