Business Enterprise Institute expands, adds services for manufacturers

By Sam Davenport, Startups Storyteller

Alyssa Rodrigues in her office at BEI.

Alyssa Rodrigues in her office at BEI.

UAA’s Business Enterprise Institute has a new organization under its wing: the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. MEP’s mission is to align partners and advance services to maximize value to Alaska-based manufacturers.

MEP works with manufacturers to overcome hurdles relating to commercializing new technologies and assisting with logistical issues. They can also help makers with cybersecurity issues and leadership development.

Alyssa Rodrigues, Director of MEP, understands the opportunities and challenges Alaskans face while being in a remote location. 

“It’s really hard — in general — for manufacturing to flourish in the state,” Rodrigues said. “We are here to be a resource for manufacturers to help their business be better.

There have been multiple iterations of MEP in the state, but this is the first time it has been associated with the University. Rodrigues says one of the reasons why MEPs have struggled in Alaska is because of small manufacturing rates and high energy costs, among other factors.

Rodrigues is excited to collaborate with BEI entities to assist manufacturers, as well as the larger MEP national network. While she has been part of other national networks, the amount of support from MEP’s national network is unparalleled. She’s gotten out-of-the-blue calls from other states who are eager to assist in any way they can.

“You don’t just have access to us, you have access to all these folks in other states who are doing super cool, wonderful, bananas kind of things with their manufacturing,” Rodrigues said. 

Rodrigues hopes to eventually offer courses — some classroom and cohort-based — to provide a space for manufacturers to work internally with a group to problem-solve and relate to one another. 

“We are here,” Rodrigues said. “If there’s any problem that you’re facing as a manufacturer, you should contact us, we will help you.”

For additional information, contact Rodrigues at avshanks01@alaska.edu