A wide variety of business, government and academic groups launched yesterday the Foundation for Economic Excellence Inc., a non-profit organization that will try to improve the productivity and technical prowess of Maryland's small and medium-sized manufacturers.
Initially financed by grants from the Abell Foundation, the state Department of Economic and Employment Development and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the foundation will act as a clearinghouse for the various pub
lic and private programs available to manufacturers.
"Right now they're being met with too wide an array of service providers," said William Tate, president of Tate Andale Inc., a subsidiary of Tate Industries in Baltimore and chairman of the Maryland Manufacturers Association, a charter member of the foundation. "There's been no integration."
The foundation will help businesses figure out exactly what their needs are and will bring them together with government, academic or private-sector providers, said Paul Coughlin Jr., chairman of Washington Aluminum Co. and chairman of the foundation.
He said the organization hopes to hire a full-time president by mid-November to replace Bob Noble, the acting president, who is on loan from Westinghouse Electric Corp.
The foundation's offices will be on the campus of Catonsville Community College. Other participants include AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg.
The need for help for manufacturers is pressing, Mr. Coughlin said. The growing number of high-technology manufacturers in Maryland face technological and production problems that were unknown to most of the smokestack industries that used to predominate in the state, he said.
For example, Quantex Corp., a Rockville maker of specialty lighting sources called electroluminescent lamps, faces the problem of "struggling through the transition" from pilot to full-scale production and finding trained workers, said its vice president, Anthony Clifford.
Quantex has used various federal and state government financing programs, Mr. Clifford said, but he added, "I would like to find out what kinds of things these sources can do to solve real manufacturing problems. I'm keeping an open mind."