Rome wasn’t built in a day … the longest journey begins with a single step … you can’t eat the elephant in one bite. All old adages, and all good advice, but not what a forgotten, but critical industry wants to hear, as the patience for change — real change — has long since waned.
That is why the creation of and the positive evolution of the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus is such an important foundational component to New Jersey’s financial future. That is why the cooperative efforts of state Sens. Bob Gordon (D-Fair Lawn) and Steven Oroho (R-Sparta), who fully understand that progress is not based in politics, is a refreshing alternative to recent rhetoric to me, and to many of the manufacturers that have engaged with them..
For that fact alone, they should be commended.
Last week’s caucus hearing in Trenton was the third official meeting, but the first with actual manufacturers taking the lead. A group of nine companies spoke candidly and passionately for their companies and for their home state. They discussed the impacts of workforce development/skills gap, regulatory restrictions, outmigration and, yes, the suggested minimum wage increase.
So, what’s the next step? Because, without one, it was simply a good meeting with no goals set or met.
The manufacturers that work with the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program do want change, and do understand that they need to be part of it. They know that the manufacturing caucus is a key, but that it has to grow in stature and strength (perhaps it will someday earn committee status?) to have more impact.
To me, it is all about continuing the relationship and conversation that started in earnest at last year’s State of the State — a New Jersey manufacturing event hosted by NJMEP that repeats again on April 4 and 6. Positive communication takes two sides that are willing to work together and negotiate to get to a common end.
And for all those that still think that manufacturing and STEM-based work is long gone from the Garden State, the following are the numbers taken from our own Department of Labor:
- Manufacturing: 7,222 firms with 245,600 employees and an annual impact of $44.52 billion.
- Life Sciences: 3,100 firms with 116,700 employees and an annual impact of $19.9 billion.
- Transportation/logistics: 24,066 firms with 370,260 employees and an annual impact of $56.8 billion.
- These are real industries with real opportunities.
They are real pathways to careers for our citizens and our young people, so that they choose to stay and grow in the great state that we all call home.
That’s why the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus is such an important foundational component to New Jersey’s financial future.