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It’s time for an attitude adjustment

Five thoughts about manufacturing in New Jersey

John Kennedy is the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, responsible for setting the strategic direction of NJMEP as well as business development, sales, strategic implementation partners and new initiatives. Kennedy has a long history in manufacturing, both as a senior executive and owner. He earned a Ph.D. in industrial…

We tend not to view manufacturing as a viable sector in New Jersey — and I’m not sure why.

Take a look at the numbers: More than 10,000 companies, greater than 400,000 employees and $46 billion in output tend to differ from such a general assessment.

The fact is, the U.S. and New Jersey remain technical engines for the economy, allowing us to create and retain businesses and high-quality employees that help support our positive education system, maintain our standard of living and provide for an above average per capita income.

Just the facts

  • The most recent data (2014) show that manufacturers contributed $2.1 trillion to the U.S. economy (12 percent of the total). It’s a figure that has risen steadily since 2009.
  • For every $1 spent on manufacturing, $1.37 is added to the U.S. economy, which is the highest multiplier-effect of any economic sector.
  • Manufacturing supports approximately 18 million private-sector jobs. Nine percent of us are directly employed by manufacturing. And each manufacturing job supports at least four others.
  • The average U.S. manufacturing worker makes $77,506 annually. In New Jersey, it’s $91,890.
  • U.S. manufacturers are the most productive in the world, and No. 1 in quality as well.
  • Taken alone, manufacturing in the U.S. would be the ninth-largest economy in the world.

Sources: National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Monetary Fund, United Nations/International Labour Organization

There are, however, issues that need to be addressed, as the Garden State’s hold on this critical industry is tenuous.

Here is a list of five “Attitude Adjustments” that will help manufacturing grow and thrive in the Garden State.

  • Stop thinking that manufacturing is dead. It’s simple: There are more people than ever in the world, and they need more things. The fact is that the United States is currently No. 2 in regard to manufacturing, and projected to be back at No. 1 within two years. And this comes coupled with our consistent high rankings in regards to quality and job creation. Did you know? A minimum of four additional jobs are created for every one created in manufacturing.
  • Realize a college education is not required for a good job. All education is important, and while manufacturing firms do need a variety of college graduates, they also need those that have been trained in the industrial arts. The many machinists and welders I have known in my professional life have taught me that having the knowledge base of an engineer or a metallurgist does not equate to a diploma. We have to understand that a non-college career path does not mean uneducated. We need all components — degreed and otherwise.
  • Understand that apprenticeships are like internships, but at a much higher level. I was recently told that it takes seven years for a welder to achieve the proper training and experience to tackle all that is required to do the job. How does that compare with other programs? I also know that most apprenticeships require a minimum of three years of study and on-the-job training. It’s not an easy path to success, but well worth it once it is completed.
  • Recognize that we need more engineers, but not just those in IT. Yes, computers are everywhere, and that makes electronics, controls, and information technology engineering more important than ever. But other disciplines are needed, as well. Consider mechanical, industrial, electrical, chemical and civil/structural engineering, to name just a few of those areas that are lacking in our country and our state. All rewarding. And all needed.
  • Support fair government oversight. Manufacturing seems to be easy to target for additional taxes, DEP reviews, permitting delays and other negatives. Why not, some ask; they are a big target. But a closer look shows that’s not necessarily true. Did you know that over 75 percent of manufacturers in New Jersey and in the U.S. have 30 employees or less? These are not large firms looking to run over and around the rules. These are local companies that were created and grew in our state. They should be treated with respect and with fairness.

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