New Jersey legislators are hoping to set aside $1.5 million a year for the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, a not-for-profit that trains and connects the workforce within the state’s manufacturing sector.
Under proposed Senate Bill 1957, the funds would come out of a federal pot of money within the state’s labor department. NJMEP said it plans to use the funds to scale up operations at a South Jersey facility.
Lawmakers in the Senate Labor Committee approved the measure in a 5-0 vote at a Monday morning hearing.
“The New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program has always been a significant piece in assisting manufacturers across the state,” one of the bill’s sponsors and-chair of Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus, Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14th District, said in a Monday statement. “With a permanent source of funding, they will be able to be consistent and effective with their work.”
Still, with the state facing a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall, and its reliance on an increasingly smaller pot of federal COVID-19 relief money, Gov. Phil Murphy has shown increasing skittishness with appropriating any new funds.
“The bill is the beginning of the planning for a broader manufacturing strategy which includes NJMEP, to ensure our state is more competitive in the global market, and that we’re doing everything we can to help our local manufacturers grow and create jobs,” according to John Kennedy, NJMEP’s chief executive officer.
As the pandemic swept across the Northeast in March and April, the governors of New Jersey and five neighboring states wanted to coordinate the purchase of personal protective equipment, at a time when the federal government became something of an unreliable partner to get that equipment.
Easier still, Murphy said, would be to have those products – face masks, gloves and face shields – be produced in New Jersey. That would be a massive overhaul, Kennedy said, and a reversal of decades-long trends which have plagued the nation’s manufacturing sector.