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  About MEP

Leadership Biographies

Carroll A. Thomas, Director

Carroll A ThomasMs. Carroll A. Thomas was selected as the Director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) in April 2015. In her role as Director, Ms. Thomas is responsible for a nationwide network of centers to help U.S. manufacturers compete globally, supporting greater supply chain integration and providing access to technology. MEP is a $300 million public-private partnership program leveraging federal support by teaming with industry as well as state and local organizations. With over 400 manufacturing extension offices located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, MEP provides companies with services and access to resources that enhance growth, improve productivity and expand capacity.

Prior to being selected as the MEP Director, Ms. Thomas was appointed as the Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) in November 2012. At SBA, Ms. Thomas was responsible for program and policy development, implementation and oversight of the $113 million grants program that funds the Small Business Development Centers located in every state plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands in more than 900 service locations.

From 2000 – 2012, Ms. Thomas served as Program Manager for Supplier Scouting and as Partnership Catalyst at MEP. She implemented pilots to support Buy America procurement provisions by matching U.S. manufacturers with opportunities from publically-funded projects and co-founded the Interagency Network of Enterprise Assistance Providers. Earlier in her career, Ms. Thomas was a small business retail franchise owner; negotiated product deals with over 23,000 U.S. inventors and small manufacturers for electronic retailer QVC and managed marketing efforts for the National Gallery of Art’s vast reproduction portfolio.

With more than 30 years of entrepreneurial and small business development experience, her accomplished public/private sector career demonstrate her leadership expertise as a catalyst for creating innovative partnerships and advocating economic development by supporting dynamic small business ecosystems.

Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Leadership Washington and a former Regional Director of the Fashion Group International of Greater Washington, DC. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Drexel University and a Master of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University.

J. Chancy Lyford, Executive Officer

CLyford J. Chancy Lyford has been the Executive Officer of the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership program since November 2015. Prior to his current appointment, he served for four years as the Deputy Associate Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Small Business Development Centers.  Prior to his appointment as the Program’s Deputy, Chancy worked for twelve years as a Program Manager where he held a portfolio with oversight responsibility of more than $30 million in federal funds.  During his tenure as a Program Manager, he was called upon to establish and implement an entire office reengineering plan as (Acting) Deputy Assistant Administrator within SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership.  Since 1998, Chancy has served in various roles at SBA, including Chief of Staff to the Deputy Administrator, Senior Advisor in the Office of Policy, and as a Public Affairs Officer.

Prior to joining the SBA, Chancy spent time in the private sector working as an account executive with Ketchum Public Relations in San Francisco where he managed multiple accounts, including Levi’s, Visa and Visa International.  For ten years before moving to San Francisco, Chancy was Press Secretary for former Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers. He was instrumental in the passage of legislation creating both the SBA’s Microloan Program and the SBA’s Women’s Business Center Program.  Mr. Lyford holds a combined B.A. in English literature from Hendrix College in Arkansas and St. Peter’s College, Oxford University.

Margaret Phillips, Director of Center Operations

MPhillipsMs. Phillips is the Center Operations Director where she leads the team of Federal Program Officers (FPOs) responsible for providing financial and programmatic oversight for all Federal funding awarded to support the MEP mission.  Ms. Phillips and the Center Operations Team work closely with MEP Centers to provide cooperative agreement and operational assistance and guidance. The Center Operations Group works closely with NIST MEP’s cadre of Regional Managers and the NIST Grants Management Division (GMD) in supporting the MEP System of Centers.

Prior to rejoining the MEP in 2015, Ms. Phillips held a variety of program management positions throughout NIST beginning in 1995, including the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, the Materials Measurement Laboratory, the Technology Innovation Program, Advanced Technology Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program.

Prior experience includes 5 years with Lawrence Associates, Inc. in Dayton, OH, a consulting and technical services firm. Ms. Phillips managed the firm's technology transfer division, working with DOD laboratories to design and implement technology transfer strategies and activities.  Additionally, Ms. Phillips served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years, in a variety of acquisition, program management, contracting and manufacturing related duties.

Education includes a BS and MS in Chemistry, an MBA in Acquisition and Contracting, and a JD.

Kari Reidy, Manager of Communications

kari_reidy_webMs. Reidy leads the Communication team. This team oversees the messaging and outreach efforts focused on highlighting MEP accomplishments and positioning the program as a resource for manufacturers. The Communication team’s responsibilities cover both external communications as well as responding to inquiries from stakeholders such as OMB, Congress and the general public. Ms. Reidy is also responsible for the management and oversight of the Congressionally mandated MEP Advisory Board.

Ms. Reidy joined the NIST organization in 1995 and has worked in the MEP program since 2000.  Ms. Reidy has served as the program manager for Growth and Innovation Services and in particular, managed the ExporTech initiative that was developed in partnership with the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service.  Ms. Reidy received her Masters Degree in Business Administration in 2004 and Bachelors Degree in Management in 1998 from Hood College.

Mike Simpson, Director of System Operations

System Operations Director: Mike SimpsonMr. Simpson is the Director of System Operations.  As the leader of System Operations, he and his team are responsible for engaging the Leadership and Staff of the MEP System of Centers in a strategic dialog as it relates to improving the competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturers.   His team engages regularly with MEP Center Leadership, including the Boards of Directors, providing them with knowledge and manufacturing best practices.  Also, his team is responsible for deploying key strategic manufacturing competitiveness initiatives in areas such as Top Line Growth (e.g. ExporTech), Sustainability (e.g. E3 and GSN), Continuous Improvement (e.g. Lean and Quality) and Financing.   Many of these initiatives are developed and deployed collaboratively with other public, private, and not-for-profit organizations.

Since Joining MEP in 1994, Mr. Simpson has led several other divisions in MEP, including Information Systems and Center Operations.  Prior to joining the Department of Commerce, he was an Engineer and Information Technology consultant to the nuclear power industry, working with U.S. energy companies to develop systems to reconstitute the design basis of existing nuclear power plants as well as preparing documentation to relicense existing operations. Prior to that he served as an officer on-board the nuclear submarine USS John Adams, which was home based in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Simpson received an MBA focused on the Management of Innovation, Science and Technology in 1995 from The George Washington University and a BS in Chemical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1984.

Mark Troppe, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Program Development

mark_troppe_webMr. Troppe is the Director of Partnerships and Program Development (PPD) where he leads a team responsible for working with MEP Centers, federal, state and industry partners to develop and deploy programs and services to help manufacturers enhance their competitiveness. These include efforts to: accelerate technology adoption by SMEs, deliver supply chain optimization services, connect manufacturers with potential suppliers, address workforce issues, and support manufacturing clusters.  Mark and the PPD team play an important role in MEP’s initiatives for transforming manufacturing in the U.S. 

Mr. Troppe has held a variety of economic and workforce development positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. In addition to nearly 13 years at NIST MEP, in 2009-2010, Mr. Troppe worked with the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers. From 2000-2007, he worked at the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) as Director of Economic and Workforce Development. At NCEE Mark wrote about, developed courses, and delivered training on the nature of and opportunities for effective collaboration between workforce and economic development organizations. Prior jobs included Director of Training for US Web’s internet hosting division and Director of a nonprofit program (Kids and the Power of Work, KAPOW) that promoted career awareness with elementary school youth. Mr. Troppe started his career as a Presidential Management Intern, working for ten years in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

Ken Voytek, Acting Manager of Policy and Research

Ken VoytekMr. Voytek is the acting team leader for the Manufacturing Policy and Research group as well as the Chief Economist with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). He has previously held senior research positions at the Urban Institute, the Michigan Department of Commerce, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Alliance of Business, and Goodwill Industries International.  His work has appeared in Economic Development Quarterly, Government and Policy, Social Science Quarterly, and the Georgetown Law Review as well as in several books and book chapters.  He earned his BA in economics (with honors) from St. Edward’s University and an MA from West Virginia University and is currently working on his PhD in Public Policy and Administration