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Discusses Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) during tour of Somersworth firm

(Somersworth, N.H.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today criticized the failure of Congress to reauthorize a critical small business innovation program and said she would work to secure the program as a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business. Her comments came during a tour of Somersworth-based Airex Corporation, a manufacturing and engineering firm.

Shaheen has supported reauthorizing the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which allows small companies to compete for federal research and development dollars.  Despite bipartisan support, Congress has failed to pass a long-term reauthorization and the program is operating under a short-term extension, which creates uncertainty for small businesses. 

"I find this another frustrating example of Washington politics," Shaheen said. "This program has bipartisan support and a proven track record, as Airex's success proves.  As a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I will work with my colleagues to get the long-term reauthorization of Small Business Innovation Research Program passed in this Congress."

Shaheen recognizes that now is an especially crucial time for SBIR.

"While the economy is improving, there's still a lot of work to do. The Small Business Innovation Research Program helps our small businesses stay competitive and continues the long tradition of American ingenuity," Shaheen said. 

Airex specializes in the design and production of linear motors and electromagnetic components for military and high performance commercial applications. It has received a combined 11 SBIR awards since 1990, totaling more than $2.7 million. Having only employed 10 people in the mid-1990s, Airex now employs 25 people and is continuing to grow.  Sales are estimated at $2.5 million in 2011, 70 percent domestic and 25 percent international, primarily to Europe.

"The SBIR program was key to establishing core technologies which are fundamental to our entire product line," said Jim Sedgewick, Airex Corporation president. "These core technologies have created a technological legacy expanding our ability to develop new products and enter new markets."

First created in legislation from New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman, SBIR was established in 1982 to increase participation of small innovative companies in federally funded R&D. Since its creation, New Hampshire firms have received over $330 million in research grants through the SBIR program. Over the last two years, New Hampshire firms received 80 total awards totaling $26 million in grants through SBIR. Despite its size, New Hampshire is ranked 22nd in the nation for total grants awarded through the Department of Defense over the life of the program.