It was at the fifth annual National Manufacturing Day that John Kennedy, CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, first called to action all manufacturers and science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, firms in New Jersey. His charge: Contact government officials regarding the regulatory and cost issues the industry…“Taking this job four years ago added another facet to my job (as an engineer) working with the state and federal governments,” Kennedy said on Oct. 7 at The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset. “Paying attention to what is going on in your state and country is critical to our industry.
“You can complain all you want, but then you have to be a part of the solution. If you’re not, then you are the problem.”
The full-day event consisted of over a dozen educational breakout sessions, keynote speeches by U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, and honors for those manufacturers who have pursued innovation in research, design and production within the state.
It was the perfect venue in which to promote Operation Outreach, the NJMEP’s formal campaign to effectively reach local Senate and Assembly members in Trenton. Since then, over 100 manufacturing and STEM firms in New Jersey have already done so to arrange meetings and facility tours.
NJMEP also sent an e-blast Wednesday morning providing companies with a petition that “encompasses the five main areas of concern that have been brought to our attention numerous times over the past five years,” Kennedy said in a statement.
“I received counsel from several people and groups that are more political-minded and adept then me. They tell me that we need to educate and re-educate people on our industry and the incredibly positive impact it holds for New Jersey.”
The five main areas of concern include: workforce development and education; industry marketing; taxation and fees; permitting and the Department of Environmental Protection; and Choose New Jersey and Economic Development Association programs.
“We need to show strength in numbers in order to get in front of our Senate and Assembly members,” Kennedy said. “We suspect that if we can capture over 400 signatures that would give us a great foundation towards the ‘next step,’ which (might) be a series of face-to-face meetings in Trenton using all (of their) assets … to our advantage.”
Guadagno had said at the National Manufacturing Day event that Kennedy certainly has done his part.
“John Kennedy has been in my office or outside of my door virtually every day, if not every week, working with me and my office to make sure you all get the resources that you need to grow your companies,” she said. “Advocacy in Trenton, for better or for worse, is what you need. You need access to the elected public officials who have the ability to clear the way so you all can grow.”
According to Guadagno, manufacturers in New Jersey represent $41.6 billion of the state’s gross domestic product, put back into the economy roughly $28.7 billion and represent nearly 250,000 jobs.