CME launches 2nd round of workshops for SMART Prosperity Now program

Manufacturers in Southern Ontario are taking note of a new way to access public funding to support their productivity and export objectives: the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ (CME) SMART Prosperity Now program.

The $18.9-million program is funded by the federal government’s FedDev Ontario agency, but administered through CME, Canada’s largest industry and trade association representing all sectors of manufacturing and exporting activity across the country. “We all agreed there was a need to support manufacturing and to deal with productivity issues,” Ian Howcroft, Vice President, CME Ontario, said in an interview with The Funding Portal last February. “We also wanted to grow export opportunities and global trade. There was a lot of commonality on the objectives.

The SMART Prosperity Now program provides funding to manufacturers in Southern Ontario. The fund enables manufacturers to commercialize technologies, enter new markets, invest in sustainable and green energy, purchase new equipment and technology, as well as improve efficiency. “We worked to develop what we thought was a program that resonated with manufacturers, that would provide investment opportunities to help companies improve productivity and focus on growing their export markets, as well as accessing and entering into global supply chains,” Mr. Howcroft said.

Through the program, manufacturers in Southern Ontario implementing productivity improvement projects can receive up to 33 per cent of costs to a maximum of $75,000. Companies conducting productivity assessments are also eligible to receive up to 50 per cent of project costs to a maximum of $5000. Companies can apply to both streams independently. The productivity assessment stream can be a good starting place for manufacturers that haven’t quite finalized their projects, or that weren’t previously looking into government funding.

“If companies aren’t sure what they need to do or where they want to go, they can hire a qualified service provider to give them an assessment as to what the opportunities and challenges are, and what they need to do to put forward an application for project funding,” Mr. Howcroft said. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis until all the funds have been committed. To be eligible for the program, applicants must be manufacturers with 15 to 1000 employees, and must be looking to invest in product and process improvements that will develop and expand their export opportunities.

CME announced last week it will launch a second round of workshops in May to introduce the program to businesses. Eleven workshops will take place throughout Southern Ontario in May and June, while three additional dates will be scheduled for the fall. The program is a new departure for business owners who traditionally went directly to the government for funding.

“The way CME handled and executed the program’s implementation demonstrated our competency and ability, and that real and demonstrable benefits were being realized by manufacturers,” Mr. Howcroft said. “So when we put in a proposal to continue discussions about future opportunities, they [FedDev Ontario] were receptive to working with us and finding a way that they could continue to  invest in manufacturers.”

CME began working on the SMART program in 2008 in collaboration with the Ontario government. The following year, the industry association received funding through FedDev Ontario, and began working with the federal government to identify new opportunities for manufacturers. In mid-January, FedDev Ontario announced it would contribute $18.9 million through its Prosperity Iniatiative program to support CME’s SMART Prosperity Now initiative.

FedDev Ontario was established by the federal government in August 2009 to strengthen Southern Ontario’s economy. The agency’s Prosperity Initiative encourages businesses, non-profits and learning institutions to create a more productive, diversified and competitive economy. “These are the types of job that are coveted around the world. Many other jurisdictions are doing all they can to grow and retain manufacturing jobs,” Mr. Howcroft said.

Following his work with FedDev Ontario, Mr. Howcroft shared this piece of advice for businesses seeking government funding, “Make sure you understand the criteria, that you put together a well-articulated, well-thought out application and business plan, and give [government funders] what they’re looking for.”

Reposted from the The Funding Portal in association with The Financial Post

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