Journal Record Staff Reporter
A $2.7 million federal grant will mean a big boost in size and
activity for Oklahoma's manufacturing resource extension network,
the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence.
The money, announced last week, will be combined with $2.7
million in privately raised matching money for a total $5.4
million over two years, said Sheri Stickley, director of
technology development programs for the Oklahoma Center for the
Advancement of Science and Technology.
The alliance went on line in January, modeled upon feedback
solicited from owners of Oklahoma manufacturing companies. They
said help was most needed in the areas of technology, marketing,
finance, human resource management and collaboration with other
Now, 11 people work as field agents, calling on small
manufacturers at their facilities. Ten regional manufacturer
councils have been established for manufacturers to work
together, sharing common problems and finding ways to
collaborate, Stickley said.
The new funding will go toward hiring 13 or 14 additional
"broker agents" and four additional "industry sector
specialists." The specialists are individuals stationed at the
Oklahoma Department of Commerce to gather industry intelligence
and disseminate the information to manufacturers it can help.
"There are very few national manufacturing associations in
Oklahoma. Those kinds of organizations are the ones that normally
provide such information," Stickley said. The idea was for
industry sector specialists to step into that void and provide
information on market trends, technology and changes in
So far, there are two specialists _ one in aviation and
aerospace, and another in electronics. With the new money,
specialists will be added in plastics, food processing,
instrumentation and industrial machinery.
The Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence has been
fostered by the commerce department and OCAST, but it's a
private, nonprofit corporation founded by a group of Oklahoma
manufacturers. The alliance plus a consortia of eight regional
co-sponsoring groups pay for the salaries and overhead of the
To apply for the federal grant, the alliance and the consortia
banded together with OCAST and the commerce department. "You
realize how many organizations across the state had to get
together and collaborate to make this happen," noted Stickley.
"Not every state can muster the degree of cooperation and
collaboration we've been able to do."
OCAST will function as the funding administrator for the
grant, which is sponsored by a variety of federal agencies: the
departments of defense, energy, transportation and commerce, plus
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the
National Science Foundation. …