Manufacturers and New Jersey Legislators Come Together to Drive Manufacturing Forward
New Jersey manufacturing has faced tremendous obstacles for decades from a dwindling workforce, subsided foreign competition, and red tape from state and federal governments. The industry is struggling to remain competitive here in New Jersey and nationwide. ‘MADE in New Jersey’ manufacturers are tired of being forgotten, overlooked, and forced to abide by rules and regulations that are baseless and hindering these businesses’ ability to remain in New Jersey. One way NJMEP and now NJBIA helps support the entire industry is by providing the opportunity for local ‘MADE in New Jersey’ business leaders and state policymakers to collaborate. A primary tool to drive more manufacturing support is by calling on the bilateral bicameral Legislative Manufacturing Caucus to host meetings throughout the year focused on specific sectors and the challenges these businesses face. The first Legislative Manufacturing Caucus meeting of the year was held on February 23 at Source Farmhouse Brewery in Colts Neck, NJ, and focused on the challenges New Jersey brewers and wineries face when conducting business in the Garden State.
The Legislative Manufacturing Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators that have become manufacturing allies. Those that sit on the caucus have made it a personal mission to help support the industry. To keep manufacturing in the minds of the entire legislature, the industry needs these allies to speak up for them on the public stage. Bringing the industry and the caucus together is one of the most effective ways to ensure the industry is being heard and supported. Manufacturing Caucus meetings take place throughout the year and focus on specific sectors, but they use the same format; roundtable discussions between a panel of manufacturers and the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus where manufacturers can voice their concerns, ask their questions and provide input. The caucus then engages with these manufacturers, proposes ideas and potential solutions to see if these ideas can help alleviate their bureaucratic bottlenecks. This back-and-forth discussion with the goal of developing real solutions is an effective and inclusive way to build a more manufacturing-friendly New Jersey.
It is rare for a legislator or any kind of policymaker to have any real-world experience with the manufacturing industry. When they create laws, subcommittees are tasked with interpreting that law and developing the rules and regulations that must be followed by businesses. This can cause some issues in how laws are interpreted.
New Jersey wants to keep manufacturing businesses here in the state. The industry is a huge economic stimulator and a fantastic source of highly competitive employment for its residents. With manufacturing contributing more than $54 billion to New Jersey’s GPD, roughly 10% of the total state GDP, and the source of nearly 400,000 jobs, the state government relies heavily on the industry even if they don’t understand it completely. The ultimate mission of these Legislative Caucus Meetings is to help bridge that information gap. By giving manufacturers a platform to directly engage with legislators, state decision-makers become more aware of how their laws are being interpreted by subcommittees. They become better educated about the true scale, scope, and impact of the local manufacturing industry, and can pass this information over to their colleagues in Trenton.
Building a collaborative, rather than a combative relationship with local government is essential. Government is the silent partner of business and it has the power to either bolster or destroy an industry. Showing the value of manufacturing to the state legislature encourages these individuals to consider the industry when drafting new legislation.
‘MADE in New Jersey’ Brewers and Wineries
Brewers and wineries from all over New Jersey came out to participate in the Legislative Caucus Meeting. There were even manufacturers that have no relationship with the sector to show support for their fellow manufacturers. Each brought a different perspective but nearly all of their concerns aligned, showing there are systemic issues with current regulations hindering these businesses’ ability to remain in New Jersey. There were over 12 legislators that attended the meeting, from both parties from both the house and senate. Take a look at the full list of those businesses and legislators that helped drive the conversation, below:
New Jersey State Legislators in Attendance:
- Senator Greenstein, Co-Chair of the Manufacturing Caucus
- Senator Testa, Co-Chair of the Manufacturing Caucus
- Senator Gopal
- Assembly Calabrese
- Assemblyman DiMaio
- Assemblywoman Eulner
- Assemblyman Greenwald
- Assemblywoman Flynn
- Assemblywoman Piperno
- Assemblyman Stanley
- Assemblyman Barranco
- Assemblyman Scharfenberger
Manufacturing Business Leader Panelists:
- Jeff Donlon, Owner, Sunken Silo Brew Works (Panel 1)
- Roger Apollon Jr., Co-Owner, Four City Brewing (Panel 1)
- Denise & Leo Sawadogo, Co-Owners, Montclair Brewery (Panel 1)
- Phil Petracca, Owner, Source Farmhouse Brewery (Panel 1)
- Rick Martinez, Owner, Senor Sangria (Panel 2)
- Bob King, Co-Owner, Lone Eagle Brewing (Panel 2)
- Scott Wells, Owner, Bolero Snort Brewery (Panel 2)
- Lori White, Owner, Zeds Beer / Bado Brewing LLC (Panel 2)
- John Companick, SpellBound, Co-Owner (Panel 2)
- David Wolin, Owner / Wine Grower, Old York Cellars (Panel 2)
There were two panels made up of a mix of breweries and wineries to ensure each participating manufacturing business had a chance to address the caucus. Breweries and wineries must abide by countless rules and regulations, all developed with the safety of their customers in mind. However, once a law is passed, that law must be interpreted by a subcommittee which ultimately develops the regulations these businesses must follow. During the Caucus meeting, legislators were informed about some of these rules that went against logic. Some of the rules such as breweries can only have a maximum of three TVs, they can’t promote local restaurants, not being allowed to sell coffee, and sunsetting the ability to deliver to people’s homes are just some examples of regulations that surprised the legislators on the panel. These business owners want to open more breweries in New Jersey, but local laws make that dream impossible. Instead, they will instead look to expand into neighboring states like Pennsylvania.
Collaboration Drives Progress for New Jersey Manufacturing
By bringing manufacturers and legislators into the same room to highlight some of the most business-hindering regulations, the industry took an impressive step forward. The legislators in attendance were supportive, willing to listen, and work with the manufacturers to come up with ideas that might be able to alleviate some of these pressures. The manufacturers were listened to and understood. This first Manufacturing Caucus meeting of the year succeeded in educating state policymakers and building trust with local businesses so they can work together rather than breaking down the adversarial relationship.
“It’s very refreshing that our legislators are listening to us and understanding. What you see here are the concerns amongst all the breweries throughout the state with different business models that are consistent. We’re very hopeful we can get some sensible legislation passed to curtail these regulations that are hampering the ability for us to scale up,” Phil Petracca, Owner, Source Brewery stated.
Scott Wells, Owner, Bolero Snort Brewery had this to share, “I think it was very informative all around. I think we helped highlight some of the major manufacturing issues that our sector is facing. I always hope to find better legislative partners, but I find that to find better legislative partners they really need to understand the unique challenges and opportunities that we have to deal with in our world.”
The entire event ran from 10 AM – 3 PM. It included a tour of the facility, a chance for NJMEP, NJBIA, SHCCNJ, and the legislators to share a few words with the manufacturers in attendance about the goal of the meeting, and then the panel discussions began. When the manufacturers were asked their impression of the meeting, it was clear they felt their voices were heard. Follow-up is always essential, especially in advocacy. On May 5th, 2022, NJMEP and NJBIA are hosting State-of-the-State of Manufacturing hosted at the Trenton War Memorial, Trenton, NJ. It is no cost for manufacturers and the goal is to follow up on progress being made as well as invite every manufacturing sector to share their concerns, and work together with the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus as well as other members of the New Jersey legislature to educate and drive real positive change here in New Jersey. Registration is Open Now. Without manufacturers being willing to speak up for their industry, ‘MADE in New Jersey’ businesses will continue to face tremendous bureaucratic challenges without any hope of gaining the support of the individuals that have the power to make a difference.