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Report finds bright spots, opportunities for manufacturers in Newark

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Recommendations for boosting the competitiveness of manufacturing in Newark are the subject of a 60-page Brookings Institution report unveiled this morning by Mayor Cory Booker, local officials and businesses.

The report said Newark's nearly 400 manufacturers are mostly small businesses, with some adapting well to economic change while others struggle.

The report advances five major goals — accelerating innovation, promoting sustainable supply chains, connecting manufacturers to new market opportunities, creating a 21st-century manufacturing work force and linking the city's physical transformation with economic transformation.

Among the strategies proposed to make those goals a reality: Connecting Newark manufacturers to networks that promote competitive supply chains, boosting the city's visibility as a port city and logistics hub, and targeting the redevelopment of vacant industrial land for light manufacturing.

The report is the culmination of the first year of the Newark Manufacturing Initiative and its collaboration with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. According to the report, Newark's key assets — location, density, scale and diversity — "have the power to support new product development, expansion into new markets, and to create more and better-paying career pathways in Newark and its region," the report said.

But the city's manufacturers also face challenges that undermine its competitiveness. While the region's infrastructure enables commerce with a larger market, "small and midsized companies in Newark lack sufficient support to take advantage of them," the report found. And Newark "struggles with a manufacturing skills gap that hampers its ability to respond to existing and future market demand."

The report urges "Newark stakeholders to implement strategies to address the challenges facing the manufacturing sector, and to capitalize on assets and opportunities that can help small and midsized suppliers compete."

Joining Booker at a press conference this morning to release the report were Mitch Cahn, president of the Newark apparel maker Unionwear; Joel Bloom, president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology; and Preston Pinkett III, chief executive of City National Bank.

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