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Published on 2017-11-28

New Jersey is a great place to live, but has always held select challenges for companies looking to do business here…especially manufacturing firms.

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That being said, we also have assets like a solid educational system, a somewhat exclusive access to capital, and are located in a hub for all forms of transportation. Realistically, it is a great place to be wherever you exist within the supply chain.

By NJMEP’s database, we have 10,552 manufacturers in NJ, and these firms employ about 360,000 people (including life sciences). If you use the “every manufacturing job begets four more” formula, that means that 1.8 million New Jerseyans are working and paying taxes due to our industry. This is not only significant, but actually propels us into the top 10 standings throughout the USA.

This is great in a vacuum, but after having traveled the state for the past 5+ years speaking to many manufacturers, the same mantras are consistently mentioned: “We don’t have a voice,” or, “We want to be heard,” or, “They don’t listen to us.”

In 2017, we made several huge steps to help those yearning for representation, including:

  • Operations Outreach Petition – signed by the C-Level individuals at over 500 NJ Manufacturing Firms asking for a larger conversation with our State Delegation.
  • State of the State – NJ Manufacturing – two large-scale conventions driven in large part by the Operations Outreach Petition and NJMEP with support from NJBIA and CIANJ in March 2017. The events drew over 300 manufacturers and 65 legislators to the hands-on program.
  • New Jersey Bi-Partisan Legislative Manufacturing Caucus – through Senator Stephen Sweeney and led by Senator Bob Gordon, the Caucus became a reality and provides the support and voice that has been missing for so long in New Jersey’s manufacturing industry.

We’ve been having discussions for a long time with legislators, and we all need to come together to champion for a strong manufacturing sector in New Jersey. New Jersey has more than a 200- year history of harnessing manufacturing to push the boundaries of science, technology, and commerce. NJMEP has been a strong advocate and partner of the Manufacturing Caucus and works closely with legislators across the state. We will aid in the recruitment and expansion of the talent pipeline, and help create new pathways and opportunities for countless residents to find stable and rewarding jobs.

The Caucus is focused on enhancing the productivity, capacity, and competitiveness of New Jersey manufacturing. More than 12 state legislators are part of the Manufacturing Caucus.

During the first initial public meeting on September 19th, Senator Gordon, Chairman of the Manufacturing Caucus, opened the session. He noted, “Today in New Jersey we have over 10,000 firms engaged in increasingly advanced manufacturing that employ over 350,000 workers. The goal of this initiative is to help those businesses grow and succeed.” The Caucus will work on policies that include improving partnerships between education and manufacturing, research and development and job creation and retention. “NJMEP will be instrumental in helping to close the skills gap,” added Gordon.

Excessive taxes, overly strict regulation, workforce development, inadequate innovation, and a lack of collaboration are just a few of the policy issues that NJ manufacturing could seek to improve. The Caucus aims at addressing these constraints. Bringing manufacturers and government officials together to discuss issues in an open forum has always been a valuable way to get to the bottom of what’s holding a sector back.

Dr. Donald Sebastian, Ph.D., President & CEO, New Jersey Innovation Institute and NJMEP Board of Directors, founding and current member, also presented at the Caucus. “If we embrace change, the future of manufacturing will consist of large OEMs that will reshore production fueled by a highly educated workforce. Equipment, instrumentation, and software companies will set up operations in NJ to be closer to their customers. Transportation and logistics will grow to support the thriving industrial landscape. And manufacturing share of GDP will match Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Michigan, creating 250,000 direct jobs with a 64 percent wage premium and 1,000,000 indirect jobs,” states Dr. Sebastian.

By the most recent information from the National Association of Manufacturers, average annual compensation wages for NJ is over $90,000. This then becomes a very positive pathway for our young adults and under-employed to provide realistic opportunities for our citizens. It also supplies support for companies looking for college- and technical-educated individuals to grow their businesses. If these metrics are to be believed, they should go a long way in stemming the concern regarding the “exodus” of Millennials and companies. With the financial flexibility afforded by our state income tax, NJ should be more affordable to Seniors as well. Pathways are important, and I full-heartedly believe this industry is a pathway to a better life.

And this is why National Manufacturing Day should matter to all of us that work within this industry—and to everyone else as well. Manufacturing Day celebrates manufacturing for its leadership and innovation. It’s an opportunity for manufacturers to highlight their work and their workers, and to energize a future pipeline of skilled workers. Our ‘Made in New Jersey’ celebration was held on Friday, October 6th.

Manufacturing Day has always been an important way for NJMEP to spread the word about the benefits that manufacturing provides to our Garden State.

Awards were presented to five companies and one individual, out of 24 finalists, for their contributions to the state’s $44.5 billion manufacturing industry.

The winners included:

  • Jim Placa of Davion: The Raymond Hopp Award for Excellence;
  • Easterseals: Innovator of the Year Award;
  • Sock Gang LLC: Manufacturer of the Year (Best Start-up/Young Manufacturing Company);
  • ZaGO Manufacturing: Manufacturer of the Year (Small Manufacturer);
  • Demountable Concepts, Inc. (DCI): Manufacturer of the Year (Medium Manufacturer);
  • GGB Bearing Technology: Manufacturer of the Year (Large Manufacturer);

Three people and two state organizations were named to the Made in New Jersey Honor Roll for Manufacturing & STEM at the event, receiving plaques for their support of manufacturing. They are:

  • Sivaraman Anbarasan, executive director and CEO of the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce & Economic Development;
  • Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools;
  • Ralph Tillinghast, lab director, Picatinny Arsenal Collaboration Innovation Lab, ARDEC, US Army;
  • New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development ;
  • New Jersey Business Action Center (BAC)

The awards were given to leaders, companies and industrial initiatives that have made significant contributions to NJ’s manufacturing industry. Together, we will ensure that NJ manufacturing is driven by innovation, infused with world-class talent, and continues its reign as a leader into the future.

Let’s do this together!

John W. Kennedy, Ph.D. is CEO of New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP). He previously served as the organization’s COO and has more than two decades of experience in the manufacturing and engineering arenas.

Volume:
20
Issue:
5
Year:
2017

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