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 PITTSBURGH, Nov. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- On the eve of the holiday season, western Pennsylvania manufacturers received some early good tidings. President Clinton today announced that the Western Pennsylvania Manufacturing Extension Program -- a joint venture between the Ben Franklin Technology Center and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (SPIRC) -- will receive $3.25 million in federal funding over the next two years.
 The grant is one of 55 nationally that the White House announced today. The grants total $110 million in federal defense conversion monies aimed at helping defense contractors adjust to competing in commercial markets.
 In this region, the program will provide manufacturers with new and better integrated services including technical and financial assistance for manufacturing modernization, product and process improvement, training and market development. It will accomplish this by taking advantage of existing resources and programs as well as adding new ones.
 "The Western Pennsylvania Manufacturing Extension Program (WPMEP) is something that has been needed in this region for some time," said Ray Christman, executive director of SPIRC. "And that is to better integrate the services that are provided to manufacturers and to create more of a holistic and strategic structure for the delivery of those services."
 Competition for the funds, which will come from the Technology Reinvestment Program through the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was intense. A total of 2,800 proposals seeking $8.5 billion was received from across the country with Pennsylvania ranking among the top six states in the number of proposals submitted.
 Western Pennsylvania is ideally suited to manufacturing extension because more than 4,000 manufacturing firms operate in the 13-county SPIRC region that extends from Greene County north to Lawrence County, east to Cambria County and south to Bedford. It still provides an estimated 195,000 jobs, accounting for more than 16 percent of the work force. However, advances in technology and manufacturing process controls are making it increasingly difficult for smaller companies to compete. The WPMEP will give smaller companies improved access to sophisticated manufacturing training and technology.
 "Certainly the hope is that it will help to grow the industrial base here, as well as the base of advanced technology firms, so we can create more high-wage, high value added jobs that will grow the regional economy," said Christman.
 -0- 11/24/93
 /CONTACT: Martha Lester Harris of Southwestern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, 412-687-0200, ext. 231, or at home, 412-461-6556/

CO: Southwestern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center; Ben
 Franklin Technology Center ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:

JT-KC -- PG010 -- 7804 11/24/93 17:48 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 24, 1993

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