The past 12 months were a strange mix of positive developments and significant setbacks for the state’s manufacturing industry. The COVID-19 pandemic began to ebb and operations started to return to normal. Demand picked up as businesses reopened and projects moved forward again. The economy as a whole demonstrated strength and resilience, leading business owners and executives to express confidence about the future.
At the same time the emergence of new COVID variants drove up case counts and hospitalizations, leading to fears that the pandemic was still far from over – and that the recovery could be short-circuited. A long-standing labor shortage worsened, creating another drag on business operations. And supply chain issues drove up prices across a variety of products and raw materials, dampening the confidence that was evident in the spring.
In fact, that mix of positive and negative produces a cloudy outlook for 2022. There is reason for optimism and reason to be pessimistic. And one does not have to look especially close to see either.
But New Jersey has an enormous advantage – the men and women profiled in these pages. They are business owners, executives, advocates and academics. And they share a passion for the industry, experience with all manner of adversity and expertise unmatched anywhere. The strength and resilience evident in the economy is due in no small measure to their efforts.
A word here about one particular individual — John Kennedy, who again tops this list. Kennedy announced at his organization’s Manufacturing Day event that he plans to retire as CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program. Pretty much everyone listed here would agree that it’s hard to imagine the manufacturing industry in New Jersey without John Kennedy out front, leading the way. And as noted in his profile, it’s a safe bet that he’ll show up here again, whether he’s “retired” or not.
We’d like to hear what you think of our choices, so take a look at the list and let us know what we got right and, just as important, what we got wrong.
As always, the top 10 honorees are listed in numerical order; the others are listed alphabetically.