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Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms in the Age of COVID

November 2nd, 2020

Assistance for Import-Injured Firms Focused on the Long Run

Import competition continues to threaten smaller U.S. manufacturers, even as most face a long road ahead as they work to rebound from the effects of COVID-19. In these times, losing just one more customer to imports can be crippling,

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF) is the only federal program specifically designed to help small manufacturers that have been directly hurt by imports. The Great Lakes TAAC runs the program in Indiana. Through the program, GLTAAC helps import-injured companies identify, develop, staff, and pay for business improvement projects designed to increase their overall competitiveness.

TAAF funding helps manufacturers tackle issues that can help them rebuild sales, find new customers, improve efficiency, adopt new technologies and diversify. TAAF assistance strengthens import-challenged firms, making them more resilient as they face threats such as COVID-19. 

Eligible firms receive up to $75,000 in matching funds to hire private-sector consultants to implement projects of their choosing. Key to the success of the program for firms is the flexibility it offers (in both potential projects and providers), as well as its focus on the long run. Most TAAF clients complete 2-4 projects through the program over a 3-5 year period.

TAAF assists clients in projects to help both the top and bottom lines. Here are some examples of projects TAAF has co-funded for GLTAAC’s Indiana clients:

  • Covid-19 PPE Pivot helps Indiana Automotive Manufacturer’s Diversification Effort - In January 2020, when this GLTAAC client began working with an outside consultant on a TAAF co-funded diversification project, they had no way of anticipating COVID-19’s impact. With the project underway, but their sales hurt by the virus, the firm quickly chose to pivot to PPE manufacturing—initially as a temporary measure.

Despite the pandemic, the diversification consultant’s work continued, with several new markets identified. But also, the consultant saw that the manufacturer’s quick response during their PPE pivot showed their corporate strength.

The diversification project ended with successful participation in a state program to identify new government/defense suppliers. Key to the success was the consultant’s ability to tie together the firm’s traditional production capability, as well as the flexibility and speed they demonstrated during the COVID-19 pivot. Additionally, the firm is planning to continue pursuing the medical supplies market.

  • Furniture Manufacturer uses Funds to Build Brand Awareness - This Indiana GLTAAC client was well-known by existing customers for their high-quality cabinets.  However, the company needed to spread the word in order to expand their client base. So, using a consultant of their choice, they undertook a Brand Awareness project, which included the creation of a new website and development of a targeted outbound marketing campaign. Activity and engagement are up and the company has identified potential new customers. The TAAF program paid for 50% of this $28K project.  

Check out the website at www.gltaac.org, or contact GLTAAC Project Manager, Scott Phillips at shphill@umich.edu or 734-787-7509.

- Article by Carmen Wells Quigg, Project Manager, Economic Growth Institute