Gopal eager to serve in role as chair of Manufacturing Caucus

They came to talk about taxes, minimum wage, the ability to expand, dealing with environmental regulations, research and development credits, energy costs, workforce development — and a whole bunch of other items impacting manufacturing.

State Sen. Vin Gopal was happy to take it all in.

As the new chair of Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, Gopal (D,  11th district) participated in the meet legislators panel at the second annual State of the State of Manufacturing event at the County College of Morris in Randolph last Friday.

The event, put on by the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, brought together more than 200 people connected to the sector.

Gopal joined the caucus last week as a replacement for outgoing chair, State Sen. Bob Gordon, who is leaving the senate to become the commissioner of the Board of Public Utilities.

Gopal told ROI-NJ he was eager to jump into what he feels is a vital industry for the state.

“Manufacturing really impacts so many aspects of the New Jersey economy,” he said. “The New Jersey Legislature has a responsibility that these people not only stay in Jersey and grow jobs here, but that they can also expand here.

“Today, I learned about a lot of issues, including the steel tariffs and so many other things. Everyone is going through something different and it’s really important to be aware.”

Gopal noted that he does not come to the post without solid business credentials.

He has been the president of Direct Development, a marketing and creative design agency based in Hazlet since 2010. Among other things, the company operates Community Magazine.

And Gopal has served on the board of directors for the Northern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce (2009-2012) and as president of the Hazlet Business Owners Association (2010-2012).

“I have been dealing with my manufactures, so I understand why it’s such an important industry,” he said.

Since being elected to the state senate last fall, Gopal’s knowledge has only grown.

“I was traveling in Carteret, and saw so much going on there with manufacturing,” he said. “The city there is doing a wonderful job, incentivizing manufacturing companies to go there.

“I think New Jersey has an opportunity and it’s everything from steel to autonomous vehicles to STEM. There are so many aspects that we can do.”

John Kennedy, the CEO of NJMEP, is thrilled to have Gopal on board.

Kennedy feels he is the latest example of officials in the legislature making sure manufacturing gets attention.

“Senator Steve Sweeney took a large, unprecedented step in creating the legislative manufacturing caucus,” he said. “Selecting Senator Bob Gordon was a solid move as Bob developed a solid foundation.

“Now we have Senator Vin Gopal to take the Caucus to the next level, which includes making a true difference in this critical industry.”