The New Jersey Business & Industry Association is excited to be working with the Legislature as it puts together its new Manufacturing Caucus tasked with examining the challenges facing New Jersey manufacturers and implementing changes that will help them become more competitive and successful in today’s global marketplace.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney recently announced the initiative and named as caucus chairman Senator Bob Gordon, whose experience running small businesses includes having managed his family textile mill in Paterson. The Manufacturing Caucus will be bipartisan and include members from both the Senate and the General Assembly. We anticipate the caucus’ work in the months ahead will ultimately lead to a bipartisan legislative package designed to strengthen and grow this important sector of New Jersey’s economy.
Although manufacturing no longer employs almost half the state’s workforce as traditional manufacturing did during the 1960s, today’s manufacturing, with its ever- increasing focus on technology, remains a critical part of New Jersey’s overall economy – a $38-billion industry employing nearly 250,000 people.
Manufacturing giants in the chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum and food sectors call New Jersey home, but the majority of New Jersey’s 10,000 manufacturers are smaller businesses using advanced high-tech manufacturing processes. They require highly skilled workers capable of running complex software and modern cutting-edge equipment.
Yet our companies have told us they often have difficulty filling many of these advanced manufacturing positions, even though they pay good wages that average $80,000 a year, because they cannot find qualified candidates with the required training and technical skills. NJBIA, working with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, community colleges and member companies, has been at the forefront of efforts to prioritize workforce development programs to connect jobseekers with the advanced training required in today’s manufacturing.
Part of our efforts to help our manufacturing companies meet these unique challenges included the formation several years ago of NJBIA’s Manufacturing Network to provide members with information on existing resources related to job training, recruitment of apprentice workers and interns, supply chain optimization, and manufacturing loans, grants and tax credits.
The NJBIA Manufacturing Network is led by two successful manufacturers, who are also members of NJBIA Board of Trustees: Clifford F. Lindholm III, president and CEO of the Falstrom Company in Passaic, and Robert J. Staudinger, president of National Manufacturing Co. Inc. in Chatham. The co-chairs, along with the rest of the network members, are excited about the renewed attention that the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus will bring to the issues faced by this industry, and are eager to participate in any possible plant visits, roundtable discussions and public hearings that are scheduled in the months ahead as part of the caucus’ work.
At NJBIA, we like to say manufacturing is in our DNA. Our association was founded 107 years ago as the New Jersey Manufacturers Association by a group of manufacturers who wanted to share ideas about workplace safety and government policies affecting their business operations. We have never forgotten our roots, even as our membership base expanded over the last century to include many different types of businesses. The Manufacturing Caucus is an idea NJBIA has long advocated, and we look forward to working with lawmakers to make its work a success.