Kennedy on manufacturers meeting with legislators: Time for state, sector to step up

John Kennedy said it’s time for New Jersey to regain its status as a center for manufacturing.

“Circumstances today have created a turning point for New Jersey and the U.S. when it comes to manufacturing,” he said.

“The pandemic has sent shockwaves through New Jersey and the entire country. If New Jersey really wants to ‘be an innovation state again,’ as it keeps saying, we need to step up. We’ve known about supply-chain management issues here since back before Superstorm Sandy hit (in 2012) and nothing really got done about it. Then, there were the tariffs, and still nothing.

“Manufacturers this time around are extremely frustrated with their home state. They’ve protected us, medicated us, fed us and sustained us through the items fellow New Jerseyeans need, but all they hear about from everyone is how there aren’t enough PPEs. Why not? We can step forward and do something about it.”

New Jersey’s leading manufacturing executives will meet Wednesday with the state’s legislative Manufacturing Caucus to discuss operational challenges, solutions and opportunities created by COVID-19 and beyond.

Kennedy, the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, assisted the Manufacturing Caucus in organizing the roundtable-style event that will be conducted at 10 a.m. via Zoom.

New Jersey is home to 11,000 manufacturers that employ 400,000 workers, Kennedy said.

“It’s time for them stand up and scream for their own behalf for once,” Kennedy said.

Participating will be the following CEOs and presidents, representing a diverse group in terms of size, business sectors and manufacturing capabilities:

  • Mitch Cahn, Unionwear;
  • Peter Connolly, Shocktech;
  • Amy Eskilson, Inrad Optics;
  • Gary Fails, City Theatrical;
  • Gail Friedberg, Zago;
  • Patrick Marotta, Marotta Controls;
  • Brian Neuwirth and Howard McIlvaine, Unex;
  • Casey Muench, GEMCO;
  • Dax Strohmeyer, Triangle MFG;
  • Dieter Weissenrieder, Weiss-Aug.; and
  • Carroll Thomas, director of MEP National Network.

The roundtable, titled “Made in New Jersey From COVID to Recovery,” also will include key bicameral, bipartisan members, including co-Chairs Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Cranbury) and Steve Oroho (R-Sparta) and 11 other caucus members.

Kennedy said part of the supply chain problem stems from big companies not wanting to buy PPEs and other products that are made in New Jersey.

“Manufacturing these things we need here in the U.S. won’t quadruple the price,” he said. “And actually, they’d be of higher quality.”

He said that, if New Jersey doesn’t make the effort to fill the manufacturing void he’s seeing, “other states will beat us to it.”

The caucus has met and held hearings on key issues in the past, such as minimum wage and workforce development, and Kennedy said those were informative and successful.

“This is the most active and positive (caucus) I’ve had the pleasure of working with, as their interest and passion for ‘Made in N.J.’ is in the forefront,” he said.