The New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program received a $992,050 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership to collaborate with programs in other states.
The grant will allow NJMEP to assist the MEP National Network in creating a platform for MEP Centers nationwide to advise food manufacturing companies on quality, safety and efficiency questions along with other core MEP products and services in areas such as cybersecurity and supply chain management.
“We are excited to expand our work nationally with other MEP Centers and appreciate that NIST MEP has seen the great importance of engagements with food manufacturers on a national scale,” NJMEP Chief Executive Officer John Kennedy said in a statement. “Our services address manufacturing priorities through the creation and use of tools and resources that provide food manufacturing leaders with a clear roadmap and actions.”
The funds will allow the organization to establish a comprehensive food industry program within the MEP national network to increase the technical capabilities and capacity of MEP Centers to deliver more projects to food manufacturers. The network will more effectively serve global and national companies that operate supply chains across multiple states, according to NJMEP.
NJMEP is a nonprofit organization that advocates and provides training for manufacturing companies.
NJMEP also partners with vocational schools and community colleges to deliver its services.
Robert Salamone, director of vertical engagements and a food industry specialist at NJMEP, applied for the grant money on behalf of the organization. He sought the grant because he observed manufacturing extension programs in other states duplicating efforts of other states.
“As part of this grant, we are going to set up a national accounts program, so for large companies such as food manufacturers [like] Goya and Nabisco, we could provide them an offering and advise the client at their headquarters, that we could work with them at every one of their bakeries across the country and we could build a program for every place across the country,” Salamone said.
NJMEP received its first grant about two years ago to implement a program to teach courses on current good manufacturing practices; food allergens; food recall and withdrawal; food defense; and hazard analysis critical control points.
“We were asked to roll out this program to 14 other programs across the United States,” Salamone said. “Since that time, the National Institutes of Standards issued three other programs around the country. If I develop what I have here, these guys can take what I have and use it. They can add input and change it.”
Salamone said the grant provides money to create five regional hubs: one apiece in the Southwest, Northwest, Midwest, Northeast, and Middle Atlantic. Each state has a manufacturing extension program that will tap into its closest regional hub for technical information.
“As a group, these centers will create a library of information that other centers can pull from,” Salamone said. “We can also do regional training so that if I have a client in Texas, we can announce that there is a course in Georgia and they would know it is there. The client would have the option of waiting until when this center held the course or the client could go to Georgia to take the course.”
NJMEP is also working with the National Institute of Standards to create a national presence on their website, Salamone said. The U.S. food industry employs 12 million people in 615,000 food businesses.
Juliana Canale, food industry safety compliance and regulatory solutions specialist at NJMEP, works with other states’ manufacturing extension programs to compare best practices and how to succeed with manufacturers of foods and beverages.
“I have been working closely with Bob on curating anything from a technical perspective,” Canale said. “The grant is really looking at things from a national perspective for food manufacturers, beverage manufacturers, storage, distributors, warehouse, and making sure we are handling food from a regulatory and compliance perspective.”