Written by Phil Mintz

L to R: Lindsey Crisp, Phil Mintz, Wendy Laing, Rep. Deborah Ross

Last week, a group of North Carolina State University Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) staffers accompanied a couple of North Carolina’s manufacturing business leaders to Washington, DC for the annual “Hill Day” visits with the NC delegation of US elected representatives in the Senate and the House. Hill Day is organized by the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC) on behalf of the national group of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) state centers.

Arriving on March 8, my “team” including myself (Phil Mintz), Wendy Laing of IES and Lindsey Crisp of Carver Machine Works (Washington, NC) were set to start our appointments with visits to the offices of Representative Deborah Ross (District 2) and Representative Richard Hudson (District 6). However, since there was some time before our first meeting, we were able to join our other “visit team” of Barbara Williams (IES), Steven Hughes (IES) and Geoff Foster, president of Core Technology Molding Corporation (Greensboro, NC) on their first visit to Representative Chuck Edwards (District 12). We were to meet Rep. Edwards’ legislative assistant at the Dunkin Donuts located in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building. Once a photo was sent to us by our “handlers” (Michelle Daniels and Fiona Baxter) back in North Carolina, we could find and greet our first contact.

Our job at Hill Day is to educate our US Representatives and their staff about the NIST MEP National Network’s great work and highlight the state affiliate benefits the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) brings to small and medium manufacturers across North Carolina. It is always a great message to share and it was good to start with Rep. Edwards’ office as he is one of the newly-elected NC members of the US House of Representatives. Lindsey and Geoff began their first of many sharing opportunities during the two days on the Hill about direct manufacturing business success based on their experience with NCMEP project work.

Whether we will meet directly with the district representative or a knowledgeable staff member is always up to chance. We did not meet with Rep. Edwards, but our meeting at the office of Rep. Deborah Ross was a pleasant surprise. Our meeting with the congresswoman reminded us that IES and NCMEP still have strong support on Capitol Hill.  Rep. Ross’ district includes the campus of NC State University. During our visit, Rep. Ross assured us she would support whatever was in the institution’s best interest.

We spoke with Rep. Ross about all the challenges of North Carolina manufacturing including workforce, supply chain and technology adoption. Rep. Ross serves on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee where her work aligns directly with the activities and goals of the MEP.

Later that day, we attended a reception with all the visitors from MEP centers nationwide. The reception included a speech of support by another US representative. We also had several more meetings the next day with our state members that were all positive about continued federal support for the growth and competitiveness of our smaller manufacturers.