“To compete in today’s global marketplace, manufacturers need to be smart, innovative, and sustainable.” That’s the first thing you read on the federal government’s E3 webpage – E3 stands for “Economy – Energy – Environment.”

Manufacturers are an adaptable bunch, or they don’t stay in business for very long. Today, with materials of all sorts increasing in costs or impact, manufacturers who want to adapt to be more energy efficient, sustainable or “green” may have another tool to help them. A number of federal agencies – EPA, Commerce, Labor, Energy, Agriculture and the SBA – have teamed together with state and local governments to create E3, which is described as a “technical assistance framework.” It’s not a prescribed program. Instead, “E3 joins forces with local communities to connect small and medium-sized manufacturers with experts from federal agencies, states, and regions.

In addition to providing technical assistance, E3 supports the new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative. The goal of the IMCP initiative is foster manufacturing and help communities attract manufacturing jobs and investments. Click here for the IMCP Playbook, which is intended to provide communities with a three-step approach, pulling together existing funding and technical resources and providing best practices. If your community isn’t aware of or taking advantage of these resources, this would be good place to start.

Another key facet of the E3 program is the Green Suppliers Network, which connects smaller and mid-sized manufacturers (“Partners”) with large manufacturers and their supply chains (“Corporate Champions”). Participants in the Green Suppliers Network can request assessments that provide a report that lets the company know where it stands from a process perspective, and sets forth opportunities for improvement, along with possible cost-savings.

Writing about these issues gives me the rare opportunity to quote Kermit the Frog: “it’s not easy being green.” The E3 framework may make it easier by providing smaller and mid-size manufacturers tools they might not find on their own, to improve their own operations and to make them more attractive as both investment opportunities and as suppliers to larger companies that are themselves working to green their own supply chains.