At NJBIA, we often say manufacturing is in our DNA. We were founded 109 years ago as the New Jersey Manufacturers Association and we have never forgotten our roots – even as our membership has expanded over the past century to include many types of businesses.
Today, 21st century manufacturing, with its increased focus on innovation and technology, is a critical sector of New Jersey’s overall economy – a $49.3 billion industry employing over 247,000 workers who earn an average $92,097 per year, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. NJBIA remains focused on growing this increasingly high-tech industry.
We work closely with state policymakers on workforce development to maintain a talented pipeline of workers to oversee today’s increasingly complex manufacturing processes. We also fight for pro-business policies so New Jersey’s 7,000 manufacturers can operate in a more competitive business environment. We lobby for laws that reduce the cost of doing business, rein in overregulation, and grow the innovation economy so the exciting discoveries now in research and development can be manufactured here in New Jersey and sold worldwide.
At the recent Manufacturing Roundtable at LPS Industries in Moonachie, New Jersey manufacturers shared with us their challenges and their ideas. We heard about the need to forge more effective connections to potential customers, apprentices and county colleges. A more streamlined application process for state grants and training programs was suggested, as well as incentives to offset both the cost of state mandates and the high cost of doing business in New Jersey.
Manufacturers also said they were challenged by tariffs; federal tax code changes that removed the SALT deduction; and the expense, paperwork and sometimes futility of trying to secure H-1B visas for the workers they need because there are no qualified local applicants.
NJBIA has shared these concerns with the state’s bipartisan Legislative Manufacturing Caucus and the multistate Manufacturing Policy Academy, a program created to help states identify best practices, partnerships and policies to grow their manufacturing sectors. Officials from the NJ Economic Development Authority, the NJ Manufacturing Extension Program, NJBIA member companies, and our own vice president of Government Affairs, Frank Robinson, are all part of the policy academy team working to produce a State Plan for Manufacturing that will create jobs and economic growth.
In the meantime, results are being achieved. Working closely with the Manufacturing Caucus, for example, ultimately led to voter approval of a $500 million bond act in 2018 that will provide funds for the much-needed expansion of county vo-tech schools and career and technical education programs at county colleges. This will enable more students to connect to well-paying manufacturing careers and help New Jersey manufacturers find employees with the necessary skills, certifications and degrees required to fill open positions.
The launch of the Apprenticeship Network by the Murphy administration is helping to prepare 8,000 residents for the workforce. These initiatives include the GAINS program, which provides grants to businesses and agencies to train and employ apprentices in high-demand sectors like information technology and health care; and the pre-apprenticeship PACE program for people who are under-represented in apprenticeships due to economic or other barriers.
NJBIA welcomes your ideas as we move forward in our work with the Manufacturing Caucus and the Manufacturing Policy Academy. Please go to the ‘Ask Michele’ box on our website, www.njbia.org, to provide feedback. I look forward to hearing from you.
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