Help For Small Manufacturers

Oct. 6, 2005
TAAF aims to offset losses.

Despite the criticism of the federal government's trade policies that some say have effectively allowed foreign competitors to gain unfair advantages against U.S. makers of goods, at least one Commerce Department program is aimed specifically at helping small and midsize manufacturers to thrive in the same big pond with the sharks.

With a minuscule budget of $12 million per year nationwide, Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF) provides small U.S. manufacturers consulting expertise and grants to help them boost their competitiveness. To qualify for this help, a company must show that it had suffered a decline and loss of jobs as a result of foreign competition.

"Unless the U.S. government steps in and does more, many U.S. manufacturers will be wiped out," says Edvard Hag, director of the Rocky Mountain Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, one of 11 regional assistance centers operating under the TAAF program. "U.S. manufacturers can compete with anyone in the world, given a level playing field."

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Hag says one approach his TAAF center has encouraged small manufacturers to adopt is to outsource a portion of the production process, but retain for themselves the value-added part of the business. "That way they can continue to operate in the U.S.," he says. "In my opinion, it's better to outsource some jobs to overseas suppliers than to go under."

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