As the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Kennedy is the face of the industry in New Jersey. And its most prominent voice. He has been a tireless advocate for policies that would promote manufacturing in the state — a task that has become even more critical after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed dangerous weaknesses in supply chains.
NJMEP is a nonprofit organization that assesses, consults, trains and advocates on behalf of manufacturing companies. In this way, the organization helps businesses to improve their profitability and competitiveness. The group claims credit for more than $1 billion in products and services sold. Kennedy’s job is to set the organization’s strategic direction while striking partnerships and developing new initiatives.
Business shutdowns obliterated entire sectors of the interconnected business supply chains. Tightened restrictions on how many businesses can operate has made for a sluggish recovery. And getting the market back to a semblance of pre-pandemic levels could take years.
Factories and warehouses up and down the state and across the nation have to adhere to strict social distancing and sanitization protocols.
Soaring demand for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment – like gloves, masks and face shields – forced many manufacturers to pivot to meet the new demand. After New Jersey found itself scrambling for those materials during the first wave and jockeying with many other states, business executives and state officials are wondering how they can draw their production into New Jersey. And the task of manufacturing, transporting and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to tens or hundreds of millions of Americans will be one of the most daunting public health undertakings in American history.
Backed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NJMEP provides workforce development programs, supports entry-level training, provides credentials to state residents and offers employment to New Jersey’s underserved residents, such as veterans. Kennedy’s work focuses on what is one of the state’s most pressing issues: narrowing the skills gap and aiding in the expansion of the state’s talent pipeline. And now, getting the economy up and running on a more sustainable basis.