Amo Highlights Rhode Island Woman-Owned Business at Hearing with the National Institute of Standards and Technology

The innovation provided by Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnerships helped Chi Kitchen in Pawtucket streamline processes and increase overall output by 70 percent

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Congressman Amo questions Dr. Laurie Locascio, Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), United States Department of Commerce

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Gabe Amo (RI-01) spoke at a House Science, Space, and Technology Committee budget hearing titled “Examining NIST’s Priorities for 2025 and Beyond” which addressed the innovation being accelerated by a $400,000 federal expansion award that helps Rhode Island’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) — Polaris MEP — expand their supply chain services. These MEPs are hubs of innovation that provide technical assistance to small- and medium-sized manufacturers like Chi Kitchen, a local kimchi producer in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The federal funds received were made possible by the transformative investments in the CHIPS and Science Act passed by the 117th Congress. In addition, Congressman Amo asked Dr. Locascio about the potential impact that Republican-proposed funding cuts could have on NIST’s Artificial Intelligence Safety Institute, including their ability to establish safety standards and guidelines for industry. 

 

“The National Institute of Standards and Technology drives innovation through public-private partnerships like Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, or MEPs,” said Congressman Gabe Amo during the hearing. “These centers — like Polaris MEP in my home state of Rhode Island — provide small and medium-sized manufacturers with the technical assistance they need to grow in a rapidly changing marketplace. Recently, Polaris MEP helped Chi Kitchen, a woman-owned family business in Pawtucket, streamline its manufacturing process — increasing overall output by 70 percent.” 

 

“Polaris MEP received a $400,000 expansion award to expand its supply chain services because of the transformative investments enacted by the CHIPS and Science Act,” continued Congressman Amo. “So far, this federal funding has helped Polaris provide supply chain assessments for local businesses and connect Rhode Island companies with local suppliers and with other MEP centers looking for suppliers.”

 

“Our team has been privileged to leverage the MEP National Network to help manufacturers like Chi Kitchen grow, scale, pivot and add quality jobs,” said Matt Watson, Center Director at Polaris MEP. “We see first-hand how investments in the MEP National Network have a positive ripple effect on businesses, communities, and the US economy. We are grateful to Congressman Amo and all representatives who are advocating on behalf of the MEP National Network continuing its vital work.”

 

“Chi Kitchen, a woman-owned family business and manufacturer of award-winning kimchi, would not be where are today without the support of Polaris MEP, Rhode Island's center in the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network,” added Minnie Luong, Founder of Chi Kitchen. “Thanks to the MEP, we received transformational strategies and training that helped us grow and to weather challenges like the pandemic. Thanks to the MEP, Chi Kitchen has created quality jobs and invested in Rhode Island's economy. 

 

Video of full hearing exchange HERE.

 

BACKGROUND

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce that works to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. By working closely alongside industry, NIST has become recognized as a provider of high-quality information utilized by the private sector.

 

As of 2022, NIST employs about 3,400 scientists, engineers, technicians, support, and administrative personnel. In addition, NIST annually hosts about 3,800 associates and facility users from academia, industry, and other government agencies. NIST also partners with 1,450 manufacturing experts and staff at about 430 MEP service locations around the country.

 

Polaris MEP provides technical assistance that helps small and medium-sized manufacturers in Rhode Island succeed. More than 240 manufacturers in 31 cities and towns were served in Fiscal Year 2023. In an independent study of 131 manufacturers; they reported achieving (with Polaris MEP’s help):

  • increased and retained sales of $49.3 million
  • client investments of $13.4 million
  • cost savings of $5.1M (a 44% increase over savings realized in FY2022)
  • 681 jobs added and retained

 

Chi Kitchen is a woman-owned family business in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, founded by Chef and Culinary Educator, Minnie Luong along with her husband, Tim Greenwald. Launched in 2015, the company creates flavorful, hand-crafted Asian foods using only the best ingredients free of MSG and preservatives.

 

FULL HEARING REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Thank you, Dr. Laurie Locascio for being here today.

 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST drives innovation. Your work helps determine the success of industries of the future.

 

NIST drives this innovation through public-private partnerships like the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or MEP.

 

Centers — like Polaris MEP in my home state of Rhode Island — provide small and medium-sized manufacturers with the technical assistance they need to grow in a rapidly changing marketplace.

 

Recently, Polaris MEP helped Chi Kitchen, a woman-owned family business in Pawtucket streamline its manufacturing process — increasing overall output by 70 percent.

 

Polaris MEP received a $400,000 expansion award to expand its supply chain services because of the transformative investments enacted by the CHIPS and Science Act.

 

So far, this federal funding has helped Polaris provide supply chain assessments for local businesses, and connect Rhode Island companies with local suppliers and with other MEP centers looking for suppliers.

 

Dr. Locascio, Please provide our Committee with an update on the MEP expansion award pilot program.

 

Does NIST intend to use the MEP expansion awards program for other projects beyond the supply chain intelligence network?

 

In the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget request, $47.7 million was set aside for NIST’s artificial intelligence activities, including the Artificial Intelligence Safety Institute that can help develop and standardize evaluations of artificial intelligence systems.

 

Federal funding for this activity is essential because artificial intelligence systems can fail or intermittently produce unintended results. 

 

Unfortunately, Republican-led Appropriations Committee budget caps for the Commerce bill would result in a 2% cut from last year’s bill.

 

Dr. Locascio, How would a funding cut negatively affect the AI Safety Institute and your ability to establish safety standards and guidelines for industry?  

 

 

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