New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program CEO John Kennedy welcomed hundreds of people to Manufacturing Day, Friday at the Marigold in Somerset, touting the industry as robust.
“ … The most important words you will hear today is ‘Made in New Jersey,’” he said.
According to Kennedy, New Jersey employs upward of 360,000 professionals in manufacturing yet many people are not aware of its presence. The industry is still thriving and requires complex training and expertise.
He touted a caucus of politicians who are assisting manufacturers in bringing their needs to attention.
“These [public office-holders] have gotten together to help create conversations,” Kennedy said. “Nothing can solve all your problems but if we do not have those conversations nothing will happen.”
Kennedy and his fellow manufacturing leaders are figuring out how to connect the caucus with the industry. “It gives us a chance to be heard,” he said. “We would be foolish not to take it.”
“It is better to have the conversation upfront than to have a tax bill that pushes you to move your business to another state.”
New Jersey Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said that the DOL has provided $5 million to NJMEP.
“I took this job because economic development and workforce development are the same thing,” he said. “New Jersey has added manufacturing jobs for four years. We support paid apprenticeships. … Employers have a job to provide dignity with fair wages and the same rights in the workplace. When people are empowered and feel safe and secure in their jobs, then success will follow. Your employees are your greatest incentive.”
Kennedy said that manufacturing’s greatest challenge is a lack of young people who are qualified to work in manufacturing. As a result, NJMEP is working through the talent networks to partner with New Jersey community colleges to teach manufacturing skills.
The NJMEP has held golf outings that have given out more than $75,000 in scholarships over the years, Kennedy said.
Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said New Jersey has 40,000 vacant mid-level manufacturing jobs.
“We feel challenged in New Jersey,” Siekerka said. “We are not alone.”
John Briguglio, a CPA audit partner with CohnReznick, touted manufacturing in New Jersey as vital to the economy.
“We have seen how diverse in the Garden State manufacturing is,” Briguglio said. “We learned that manufacturing’s presence in New Jersey shows no sign of slowing down.”
NJMEP has helped New Jersey manufacturers realize $3.8 billion in value.
“A lot of companies who are here receive a third-party survey that tells us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong,” Kennedy said. “Usually what happens in business is a customer will stop working with you.”
At the event, industry and champion regional awards were given to Bihler of America in Northern New Jersey; Atlantic Precision Technology LLC in Central New Jersey; and the Puratos Corporation in Southern New Jersey.