Keeping the Wheels Turning in New Jersey!
October 21, 2018
By Lisë Stewart
We are a nation of thinkers and doers. And, contrary to common impressions, of makers. Nowhere is this more evident than in New Jersey, the birthplace of the original Society of Established Useful Manufacturers, co-founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1792.
Manufacturing continues to be a robust and growing sector in this state, and according to the NJ Manufacturing Extension Program, every $1 spent on manufacturing adds another $1.81 to the state’s economy, the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. However, our manufacturing sector is often forgotten as we focus on big box retailers, the rise of online shopping, the service-based economy and the high-tech industry. Outdated images of dark, dirty, gloomy work rooms, filled with dust and noise, with little hope of skill development or professional advancement conspire to dissuade young talent from considering a career in one of the most exciting and changing business ecosystems.
According to a recent study, funded in part by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, advanced and additive manufacturing is changing the landscape for U.S. manufacturers – bringing new jobs, skills and opportunities, along with a host of challenges. The rise of Artificial Intelligence and use of robotics and high tech innovations in manufacturing mean that we have a need for bright and motivated people to help ensure that our country remains globally competitive. In addition to needing to attract young people to the field, the average age of a senior leader and/or owner in a manufacturing company is approximately 62, with few companies having a succession plan in place to groom and build a strong management bench. We also find that baby-boomer owners are interested in retiring but can’t figure out the best options for transitioning away from their business. With the pressure of international competition, the impact of the recent tariffs and the low unemployment rate, to name a few, NJ manufacturers are facing some tough decisions as they work to maintain their profits, grow their markets and sustain their business edge.
Manufacturing in New Jersey, aided by the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP), is poised to grow, particularly in the areas of pharmaceutical, medical devices and biotechnology as well as transportation, logistics and distribution services. To help these and other manufacturing sectors, the NJMEP has developed the Pro-Action Education Network, a collaborative program, designed to prepare students and workers for the manufacturing job opportunities in this high skill environment. In addition, the New Jersey Manufacturing Caucus, a group comprised of a number of manufacturing and business organizations, such as the NJ Business and Industry Association, is committed to working with our state legislators to promote education and a living wage for workers, as well as removing some of the political barriers that hinder progress for manufacturers, both large and small, within the state.
As a state and as professional providers, we will need to be prepared to support this potential growth by focusing on programs and services that will foster an interest in manufacturing jobs, particularly among younger generations, helping business owners to plan more effectively for their own transition and working in a coordinated fashion with the various organizations who are well poised to offer state-of-the-art training and business development services to bring our NJ manufacturers into this new and exciting age of technological innovation.
Supporting and encouraging manufacturing in New Jersey is key to continuing to build economic stability and a strong tax base. This, in turn, provides a wealth of opportunities for our communities and our citizens. Alexander Hamilton would be proud to see the state of NJ manufacturing and we need to work together to ensure that the future he envisioned can thrive, for the good of us all.