State of the State


The 3rd annual State of the State Manufacturing Summit was held at the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, NJ. The event started with NJMEP CEO John W. Kennedy welcoming the Manufacturers, Legislators, and STEM firms. Topics of the day included:

  • Minimum Wage
  • Apprenticeships
  • Workforce Development
  • Industry Success
  • Taxes
  • Competition
  • Education
Michele Siekerka, President

“If you want to be heard, you need to work in numbers” Kennedy said while urging more companies to come to Trenton to either testify before a committee or to support those who are. NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka also agreed on Kennedy’s comments in her opening remarks. “John and I need you in the trenches,” Siekerka said. Siekerka went on to address how New Jersey is not a good business state for companies and Manufacturers and how it is a major concern. “Twenty-five billion dollars of adjusted gross income has left New Jersey in the form of New Jersey residents moving to other states,” Siekerka said.  “People are going to Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware,” she added.

Hugh Welsh, of DSM North America, was the Industry Keynote Speaker. Welsh talked about his concern with people and businesses leaving New Jersey along with other concerns. “New Jersey is a high-tax state,” Welsh said as a main cause to companies leaving New Jersey.

Senator Linda Greenstein

Followed by Welsh came the Members of the Manufacturing Caucus, Senator Linda Greenstein, Senator Steve Oroho and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker. Senator Greenstein outlined her goals for 2019.  Most importantly, the Caucus aims to develop better lines of communication with manufacturing companies by helping business owners navigate the government system using the New Jersey Business Action Center to access support, assistance, and resources.

She further defined the goals of the Caucus which include providing well-educated employees by bettering our vocational and technical education system, enhancing the state’s workforce recruitment policies, apprenticeship grants and mentoring programs for women, minorities, and persons with disabilities and looking for more areas for tax benefits and incentives for manufacturing businesses. “There is a place in New Jersey for more manufacturing jobs,” Greenstein said.

Steve Sweeney, New Jersey
Senate President

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney gave the government Key Note speech. Sweeney discussed the financial issues in our state and mentioned how New Jersey residents pay more in health care than any state in the country. “We can save hundreds of millions of dollars by switching from gold to platinum,” Sweeney stated. Sweeney went on to discuss his concerns with education. He mentioned how we could “save millions of dollars” by consolidating school districts to have less.

To close out the event in Trenton for speakers were NJMEP Board members Mitch Cahn, President of Unionwear, Gail Friedberg, Vice President of ZaGO, and Cliff Lindholm, President & CEO of Falstrom. Mitch talked about the minimum wage increase and how it presented a challenge for Unionwear. “I happen to think the increase will be good for the state, it just isn’t good for companies like ours that hire entry level workers and are too far from Pennsylvania to relocate without replacing everyone,” Kahn added. “The minimum wage increase will cost us $2 million a year by 2024,” he continued.

Gail Friedberg, Vice President of ZaGO

Gail Friedberg discussed the sustainability and the future of Manufacturing. “Over the next decade there will be approximately 3.5 million new manufacturing jobs needed in the U.S.” Gail said. She then went on to talk about the growth in the skill sets in Manufacturing. “The skill sets needed in manufacturing are becoming more and more sophisticated.” She added.

Cliff Lindholm discussed Falstrom and how they make electronic equipment for the U.S. Navy. “Our equipment will be in a submarine that will go into commission in 2030,” Lindholm said.

Tony Russo, President, CIANJ

The State of the State Manufacturing Summit continued at the County College of Morris (CCM) with CIANJ President Tony Russo talking about the New Jersey economy. “Without manufacturing we would not have wealth in NJ. It improves the economy,” said Russo. “When NJ makes something it generates wealth,” he added. Russo then went on to discuss the minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by 2024. “If it was not for advocacy efforts, Governor Murphy would have wanted $15 per hour right now,” Russo said.

Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo from the  New Jersey Department of Labor discussed Workforce Development and the importance of Apprenticeships. “There is no one-size-fits-all program to education…for some its college for others it’s apprenticeships,” Asaro-Angelo said. “Apprenticeship helps provide a pipeline for workforce,” added Asaro-Angelo .

Tim Sullivan, CEO, NJEDA

CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Tim Sullivan spoke about the innovation economy that includes investing in manufacturing. “Governor Murphy is committed to revitalizing the economy to make the state stronger and fairer for all residents. There is not a trade-off; the goals of being stronger and fairer are mutually reinforcing,” Sullivan said. Sullivan presented the four strategic priorities:

  • Investing in People- Help all NJ residents find meaningful work
  • Investing in communities- to build world class cities, towns & infrastructure
  • Making NJ the state of Innovation- to create more and better jobs across the state
  • Making government work better- to improve New Jersey’s competitiveness & business climate

To close out the event, Government Keynote Speaker, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill spoke briefly on Innovation and Manufacturing as well.  ”New Jersey has always had an Impact on Innovation,” Sherrill said.

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