The U.S. Department of Commerce announced last Wednesday that the University of Michigan’s Great Lakes Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, which works with companies in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio that have been hurt by foreign competition, has been awarded a $1.1 million Economic Development Administration grant.

A total of $13 million was issued to 11 different Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers nationwide, which “help American manufacturers hurt by imports adjust to increasing global competition.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the TAACs “support a wide range of technical, planning, and business recovery projects that help companies and communities adapt to international competition.”

Many of the center’s clients, frequently small manufacturers in the region, faced uncertainty in light of recent tariffs levied by the Trump administration. The Trump administration’s announcement caused uncertainty in the markets as the tariffs go against years of precedence of free trade with China.

Director Scott Jacobs said the program helps companies “step back and assess their business practices in order to become more competitive.”

“The whole idea of the assistance model is to help companies invest in themselves by building their capabilities faster and more efficiently than they could without the program,” Jacobs said.

The program offers client companies guidance in a variety of areas, including sales and marketing, personnel training and new product development. Firms can qualify for up to $75,000 in matching funds from the center to cover the cost of business improvement projects.

The grants announced Wednesday represent a $300,000 decrease in funding overall from 2017 when the Department of Commerce designated a total of $13.3 million to TAACs. 2018 marks a $600,000 decrease in funding for the Great Lakes Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, which was awarded $1.7 million in 2017. In 2016, the Center received $1.65 million from the EDA.

Jacobs said the center was currently in the third year of a five-year cooperative agreement between the Department of Commerce and the University, and that federal funding is not distributed in a “uniform manner.”

“It ends up fluctuating, and we were disappointed in that lower amount of funding, however, over the three years so far … we’ve received well over $3 million, which, in sum, is adequate for us to our work,” Jacobs said.

“Our clients and companies across the U.S. are worried about a potential increase in raw material costs, but largely they haven’t seen that yet,” Jacobs said. “Anything beyond that — restrictions in trade or a bunch of uncertainty — you know, it’s unclear what’s going to happen with that.”

 

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