Awarding the Exceptional
The national Manufacturing Extension Partnership's fifth-annual awards ceremony highlights outstanding MEP centers, manufacturing clients and individuals.
For the past five years, the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has recognized outstanding MEP centers and individuals for their service to the U.S. manufacturing industry.
"We want to recognize those folks who have the true mission at heart," says Roger Kilmer, national MEP director. "That is the driver behind [creating the awards]. Those that will not only do their job but go over and above not only in terms of working with their clients,
but also in helping other folks within their center and helping other folks within other centers."
In past years, MEP had six individual award categories and three MEP center award categories. Now in its fifth year, the awards committee added two new award categories for client manufacturers of the MEP centers.
MEP deputy director Aimee Dobrzeniecki says the addition of client awards helps showcase some of the nation's most innovative manufacturers. "It's one thing to look at internally what are some of the brightest stars that we have, but we also wanted to try to highlight from
our customer base who is really adopting the practices that we're putting out there," she says.
Two of this year's client nominees are Minnesota manufacturers. Custom packaging manufacturer Central Container is nominated for the MEP Excellence in Sustainable Initiatives Award. The company has pursued many green initiatives, including using agri-based inks for printing
and 60 percent postconsumer recycled materials for its cardboard packaging. Central Container also works with each customer to minimize packaging waste and byproducts by closely matching packaging dimensions to the size of each product.
Harmony Enterprises, a waste and recycling products manufacturer, is an MEP Excellence in Innovation Award nominee for its development of new products for niche markets. For the bottling industry, the company recently developed a machine to repurpose soda bottles and cans. The
machine crushes surplus product in a way that allows liquid to be salvaged, and the containers can be recycled.
Steve Cremer, president of Harmony Enterprises, says the nomination is an honor. "Innovation has been the key to the success of our business," he says. "I truly believe that [the United States] will never compete with Asia to make the cheapest things, but as long as we're
the leaders in innovation we can still be leaders in manufacturing."
Kilmer says handing out the awards each year is a gratifying experience. "To look at the smiles and tears [of joy] as [award recipients] come up to accept their awards signals that they really do appreciate this," he says. "They appreciate the recognition and it makes me
feel good to be able to do that for them."
This year's awards were presented May 4 at the National MEP Conference in Orlando, Fla.