NJMEP state of the state: Skilled workforce key, but high taxes hurt

Jessica Perry//March 26, 2019

NJMEP state of the state: Skilled workforce key, but high taxes hurt

Jessica Perry//March 26, 2019

John Kennedy, the president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, called manufacturing a huge influence on the economy of New Jersey on Monday during the state of the state of manufacturing summit in Trenton.

New Jersey voters approved the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act in November 2018 to provide $500 million toward higher education apart from colleges. “This is beneficial,” Kennedy said, “because 17,000 students are waiting to be accepted into vocational technical schools. These are great pathways to education besides colleges that offer bachelor’s degree programs.”

“We get stuck in the either-or mindset when we talk about education,” Kennedy said. “The MEP program was created 30 years ago to be the perfect public-private partnership.”


Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, lamented that New Jersey does not have a strong business climate.

“Twenty-five billion dollars of adjusted gross income has left New Jersey in the form of New Jersey residents moving to other states,” Siekerka said.  “People are going to Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware,” she added.

“What happens if we have another recession,” Siekerka said. “This morning the discussion is on the legalization of marijuana. We are concerned about workplace safety. We need to be conscious of people showing up under the influence.”

Hugh Welsh, president and general counsel of nutrition and sustainability living company DSM North America, gave a keynote address. His company produces lightweight products that are used in smart phones.

“We refer to the acronym DSM as do something meaningful,” Welsh said. “We have spent one billion dollars in the United States in manufacturing in the last year. We need to work in partnership with academia and the government,” Welsh said.

“The uncertainty of life poses challenges,” Welsh said.  “Our economy in the United States is doing pretty well. “You would think we would move quickly to move capital. I think there is a lot going for the operations of this state,” Welsh added.


“New Jersey is a wonderful place to live from the beaches to the mountains to the Pine Barrens to the city,” Welsh said. “But not everything is rosy. I am both positive and negative about the impact of tariffs. I think we need to do something as a country to generate fair-trade policies.”

“New Jersey is a high-tax state,” Welsh said. “New Jersey sees more millennials leave by percentage than any state in the union.”

To underscore this fact, Welsh gave an example of his son, who graduated from a New Jersey magnet high school five years ago. His son stays in close contact with eight friends who graduated from the same high school. They have now graduated from college and all eight friends have moved away from New Jersey.

“The state of our manufacturing businesses in New Jersey are not the worst,” Welsh said. “When you have 11,000 manufacturing companies in the state with an average headcount of 34, you need to partner.”

“If the governor is listening, I will take the Amazon money,” Welsh said.


More from the 2019 NJMEP State of the State of Manufacturing: