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Taking AIM: New Program to Strengthen and Expand Local Defense Supply Chain


The AIM (Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing) Higher Consortium is a Department of Defense OLDCC (Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation) funded regional program intended to strengthen and grow the regional defense supply chain. 

The defense manufacturing base in the AIM Higher region of Southwest Pennsylvania and West Virginia is a major contributor to the region with over $5 billion in DOD contracts, with significant participation by our small and medium manufacturers.

AIM is creating business opportunities for manufacturers, so we asked Matt Minner, Catalyst Connection Senior Consultant, Technical Services, to give us more details. Prior to joining Catalyst Connection, Minner spent 12 years in the manufacturing and mining sectors with Caterpillar supporting worldwide dealer partners and global mining customers. His tenure was focused on customer relationship management, product development, service management and continuous improvement. As a result, he is 
accomplished in technical issue management, problem solving, lean principles, and partner management processes.

OnRAMP: So, give us the elevator pitch for AIM.

Matt Minner: AIM Higher is a resource for manufacturers to improve their business operations through technology adoption, implement needed cybersecurity measures, complete other process improvements, or get support to pursue defense opportunities for those not yet in the supply chain.

OnRAMP: Tell us more about AIM Higher Defense Manufacturing Summit earlier this summer.

MM: The AIM Higher Defense Manufacturing Summit was held at Neighborhood 91 near the airport and at Mill 19. It brought together the armed forces, manufacturers and AIM Higher partners like economic development agencies and universities to discuss the needs of the defense supply chain and how best to engage in these opportunities. The opening reception at N91 featured tours of Wabtec and Cumberland, two manufacturers with operations in the facility along with an overview of the long-term vision of the Additive Manufacturing focused N91 campus.

OnRAMP: The Supplier Database is now on-line, fill us in on the key details. How can manufacturers get on it and how do manufacturers and other organizations use it to connect?

MM: It’s online at The Supplier Capabilities Database is a free resource for supply chain members to share their manufacturing capabilities as well as support organizations to connect.  It is intended to connect the regional defense manufacturing base and facilitate finding local sources of supply. Just go to the database link and click “Supplier” in the upper right corner to register.  You will create a login so you can keep your entry updated as your capabilities evolve.

OnRAMP: Can you provide us with details on AIM grants and training opportunities?

MM: AIM Higher technical assistance mini-grants help manufacturers implement technology and make other improvements by providing a reimbursement grant of up to $5,000 (up to 50% of project cost) to be applied towards services (equipment and hardware not eligible).  There are also various training and upskilling opportunities through AIM Higher and related programs.  Check our website ( for updates coming soon.

OnRAMP: How do you see AIM growing and connecting over the next year?

MM: AIM Higher is a three-year program, currently scheduled to conclude in August of 2023. With 14 partners across the region, it has been a significant effort to create a consortium that and truly work together and bring together its collective resources to support the community. 

As our ability to hold in-person events expands, we anticipate more convening opportunities and leveraging our various manufacturing hubs around the region. We look forward to continuing to grow the defense supply chain and provide further advanced technology awareness, implementation and training resources to regional manufacturers.