Working to Keep Manufacturers Making it in America


I work at CONNSTEP, the NIST MEP center in the great state of Connecticut.  I have the pleasure of working for an organization that helps Connecticut manufacturers improve and expand through services focused on lean manufacturing, energy reduction, quality systems, and growth services. More recently, CONNSTEP has also been providing assistance to its manufacturing clients through the Make it in America Supplier Scouting program.

What is Supplier Scouting? It’s a simple concept really.  MEP Supplier Scouting leverages the nationwide MEP network and its manufacturing specialists in every state plus Puerto Rico to identify and assist domestic manufacturers that have the ability to produce manufactured goods needed by supply chains that are currently produced overseas.

Since 2010 CONNSTEP has scouted for over 140 different items including heat pumps, lighting products, solar generators, water heaters and various transportation components with success in finding about 16 matches. Each match was forwarded to the requesting agency and project contractor/grantee for further evaluation. Where the match meets all the requirements of the program, an order can be placed with the company.  Using Supplier Scouting in this way, CONNSTEP is able to bring work back to Connecticut manufacturers, and provide additional business opportunities for these manufacturers in new markets, which, in turn, creates jobs.

DSC_2953One successful match that I am most excited about is now housed in the NIST Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility, which is a working laboratory model house located on the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  The house was built to demonstrate that it is possible for a home to produce at least the same amount of energy as it uses.  Intended to be built with all domestically produced components in its construction, the project’s general contractor was planning to use a hybrid water heater made by a manufacturer in another country, claiming to be unable to source it stateside.  The nationwide network of MEP Centers was engaged via Supplier Scouting to find a domestic source, and CONNSTEP was able to find a Connecticut company that produced a similar heater.  After determining that it would meet all of the specifications, the contractor purchased the heater from the domestic supplier, and the heater was delivered and installed in the NIST facility in November of 2011.

MEP’s Make it in America Supplier Scouting program represents a real, common sense way in which the nationwide MEP System is helping domestic manufacturers make vital contributions to the nation’s economy. In the end, these efforts are crucial to improving our economy and increasing our manufacturing employment numbers.


About Frank Rio – Frank provides business development and supplier scouting for CONNSTEP clients and special project services through management of client outreach programs. Frank is passionate about supporting U.S. manufacturing to not only boost the U.S. economy but to create American jobs. He has extensive experience in both the buying and selling sides in telecommunication, defense and aerospace industries. 

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