State-of-the-State of Manufacturing Gave the Industry a Chance to be Heard
‘MADE in New Jersey’ manufacturing took another step forward at the State-of-the-State of Manufacturing on May 5. Hundreds of manufacturers showed up at the Trenton War Memorial to have their challenges addressed by members of the state legislature during two Town Hall sessions. Manufacturing leaders took to the stage to directly address the legislators in the audience. Those business leaders that weren’t on the stage even had a chance to ask questions of these state representatives from the audience. The goal of the day was to help educate policymakers on the support the industry required and encourage them to consider developing legislation that would help these companies continue to grow in New Jersey. Topics that dominated the conversation include:
‘MADE in New Jersey’ Manufacturers Collaborate with State Legislators to Address Most Disruptive Challenges:
- Workforce Development
- Public Perception of Industrial Careers
New Jersey Manufacturers Spoke Up
Over 500 concerned manufacturers participated in a variety of conversations to move manufacturing forward. This event, co-hosted by NJMEP (New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program) and NJBIA (New Jersey Business & Industry Association), not only sparked discussion, but it was a way to directly connect manufacturers with the legislators representing their company’s district. Legislators were given the opportunity to understand the impact ‘MADE in New Jersey’ manufacturing has on the economy, the community, and its residents.
Nearly 30 Legislators and Congressional Representatives were in attendance including New Jersey Bipartisan & Bicameral Legislative Manufacturing Caucus Co-Chairs: Senators Michael Testa and Linda Greenstein. Congressional Representatives for Congressmembers Donald Norcross, Josh Gottheimer, Andy Kim, and Mikie Sherrill were in attendance. Among the legislators were Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin; Senators Andrew Zwicker, Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Declan O’Scanlon, Steven Oroho, and Edward Durr; Assemblymembers Daniel Benson, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Anthony Verrelli, John DiMaio, Marilyn Piperno, Don Guardian, William Spearman, Victoria Flynn, Clinton Calabrese, Brian Rumpf, Sadaf Jaffer, DeAnne C. DeFuccio, Robert Auth, Carol Murphy, and John Catalano.
NJMEP and its partners, NJBIA President & CEO, Michele Siekerka; SHCCNJ Chairman, Luis O DeLaHoz; NJEDA CEO, Tim Sullivan; CIANJ President, Anthony Russo and AACCNJ Founder, John Harmon addressed the crowd and discussed the importance of supporting the industry and the value in working together to drive the entire state forward. ‘MADE in New Jersey’ manufacturers and ‘Year of Women in Manufacturing’ participants General Technical Services’ Co-CEO Mari Kovach and Groezinger’s Provisions’ Alexandra Groezenger were also on stage as keynote speakers giving testimony of their success as manufacturers but highlighted the need for more support.
Two Town Halls Highlighted ‘MADE in New Jersey’ Manufacturing Challenges
Lobster Life Systems’ Thomas Olsen, Norwalt Design’s Michael Seitel, HK Metalcraft’s Joshua Hopp, and Power Container Corporation’s Aren Millan were the industry’s leaders to participate as panelists in the morning town hall session moderated by MC and NJ 101.5 news anchor, Eric Scott. They offered up a wide range of questions directed to the state legislators in the audience, including the major topic of workforce development that was brought up by many manufacturers in the crowd.
Commercial Metals Company’s Mark Zimmerman, Glutenlibre Food’s Steven Leyva, FrontEnd Graphics Inc.’s Betty Maul, Ameral International, Inc.’s Louis Grieco, LPS Industries’ Paul Harencak, Jema-American’s James Natalini, and Europastry’s Dixita Soni took part as panelists for the afternoon town hall moderated by MC and NJBIZ Chief Editor, Jeffrey Kanige. They provided insight into ways manufacturing could move forward by focusing on state incentives and support programs for those with families.
New Jersey manufacturers are all unique, however many of the challenges they face are shared. Their perspectives differ, and their ideas for progress vary, but a clear message was sent out to the legislature. Manufacturers need support from the state.
Doing business in the Garden State includes a host of benefits, from its access to ports, rail lines, and interstate highways, to the highly qualified and highly educated workforce. Still, these advantages come at a cost. The common themes mentioned above are disruptions that cannot be solved by the industry alone. Without support from the state, the industry here in New Jersey will not be able to grow or thrive. Manufacturing is advancing at a rapid pace but without creating a more business-friendly environment, New Jersey will not be able to retain manufacturers. Those in attendance did not want to leave the state. It is their home, but other states are providing incentives that are almost impossible to turn down. State-of-the-State of Manufacturing offers the industry and the state a chance to come together and create solutions to keep these manufacturers, their workforce, and their economic contributions from picking up and relocating.
‘MADE in New Jersey’ Showcase – The Largest Ever!
In addition to the town hall discussions, a ‘MADE in New Jersey’ showcase was held in a separate room at the War Memorial. This segment highlighted all the products manufacturers at the event produced to show the policymakers manufacturing is still strong in the Garden State. Manufacturers from a variety of industries ranging from food and beverage to disposable bags demonstrated their latest products. Separated by state legislative district, it showed the true scale and scope of this vast industry.
This is the first year since the COVID-19 pandemic began that State-of-the-State was held in person. The event was co-hosted by NJMEP and NJBIA to bring manufacturers and STEM companies together with state legislators to encourage manufacturing growth in New Jersey. NJMEP continues to remain an active partner to the industry and works with manufacturers and the legislature to ensure manufacturing is healthy and contributes to the state’s economic growth while continuing to provide sustainable career opportunities for its residents.
Manufacturers Need to Engage to Drive Industry Forward
One of the largest concerns impacting the industry is the need for more manufacturers to participate in events like this one. Even with over 500 business leaders in attendance, the crowd represented just under 5% of the total industry. NJMEP CEO, John Kennedy emphasized in his closing remarks that ‘MADE in New Jersey’ manufacturers must continue to be proactive. By having the industry come out in full force and express their challenges to legislators, it will show the policymakers that manufacturers are here and care.
Presenting these concerns to the elected officials is a good start but more work needs to be done for ‘MADE in New Jersey’ manufacturing to move forward. It is vital to continue advocating for the industry at these events because the community’s voice is crucial to showing legislators manufacturing matters to all the companies operating in the state. Without the support from individual businesses, the industry will continue to be forgotten. Manufacturing made headlines during the COVID-19 pandemic and is in a rare position to have the public’s ear. It is more important than ever to be at these events created specifically for manufacturers to change the paradigm here in New Jersey.