Coughlin touts support for manufacturing at Middlesex roundtable

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin offered strong support for manufacturing in the state during a roundtable with sector leaders Wednesday in Sayreville.

“Good-paying middle-class jobs that empower people to take pride in their work and to stay engaged in their communities are important,” Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) said. “Manufacturers have long provided those kinds of jobs in places like South Amboy, where I grew up seeing firsthand their positive impact on families.”

Of course, manufacturing is all around Middlesex County and the state.

There are about 10,000 manufacturing companies in New Jersey, in all shapes and sizes, many of which have been high-wage job creators in their local communities for generations. In total, they employ nearly 250,000 residents in what is estimated to be a $56 billion industry.

in Middlesex County, there are 29,250 employees from 1,028 companies within the local manufacturing sector. And 163 of those companies are from Coughlin’s 19th Legislative District, representing Carteret, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Amboy and Woodbridge.

That’s why these manufacturing roundtables are a focus for him, Coughlin said.

“Continuing to support these businesses, which are the lifeblood of many of our communities in New Jersey, is critical,” he said. “Meeting with some of local manufacturers was a great opportunity to listen and learn how we move forward to keep attracting investment and business.”

Recognizing that manufacturing is the third-highest sector in New Jersey’s gross domestic product, Coughlin said, the state’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget uses $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to support transformative projects that are putting thousands of people to work in the manufacturing sector.

That’s why Coughlin said he needs to — and wants to — be in the loop on all issues impacting the sector.

“I am eager to create an ongoing dialogue that helps you share with us the challenges you’re facing, so that, together, we can identify and develop legislative solutions,” he told the business leaders. “That is really important in driving change and promoting a more advantageous business environment.”

Among the participating companies in the roundtable were BASF (Iselin), DuPont (Sayreville), Kinder Morgan (Carteret), Colonial Pipeline (Woodbridge) and CMC Steel (Sayreville), as well as the American Chemistry Council, HC Construction and Chemours.

Key initiatives for manufacturing

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin highlighted a few programs that support the manufacturing sector during a recent roundtable discussion:

  • New Jersey Manufacturing Voucher Program: This $20 million pilot program will provide New Jersey manufacturers with grants for the purchase of equipment they need to improve their operations. The program focuses on New Jersey manufacturers within targeted industries that will purchase equipment to integrate advanced or innovative technologies, processes and materials to improve manufacturing.
  • Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act: The state is improving vo-tech facilities. It allocated nearly $250 million in the first round of grants (in 2021) and more than $50 million in the second round (this past July).
  • Small Business Package: Coughlin is promoting a nine-bill package to better support small businesses throughout their lifecycle, such as creating a small business manual, starting a database of vacant commercial space, strengthening small business competitiveness in the current online and digital environment, speeding up unnecessarily timely, costly and inefficient construction inspection processes and leveling the playing field for small businesses hoping to win government contracts to grow.

Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, who monitored the roundtable, said the sector must be protected.

“Manufacturing helped build the middle class in New Jersey, and our state should be doing all it can to keep the industry here,” he said. “Speaker Coughlin’s district includes many CCNJ member companies that are a part of the state’s largest manufacturing sector.

“We had an enlightening discussion on sustainable solutions promoted by our industry, and highlighted opportunities to advance policies that not only protect the environment, but support investment in New Jersey businesses.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Speaker Coughlin on retaining and creating high-paying manufacturing jobs in his district and across New Jersey.”

The sector has consistently high wages throughout the state. The average full-time job pays $97,281, compared with the $67,120 annual mean wage across all occupations in New Jersey, state officials say.

Ashland Global Holdings, a premier specialty materials company that has been based in Sayreville for more than a century, hosted the event.

Plant manager David Bamford said the company has provided “multigenerational job opportunities to many in the community” — and aims to do so for generations to come.

“We were glad to host this event with Assemblyman Coughlin and the CCNJ as we continue to seek ways to work collaboratively with both the state Legislature and the local community to enrich the lives of all those we touch in a responsible manner,” he said.

Coughlin said he’s working to help the sector, referencing recent legislation that helped CMC Steel.

CMC, and companies like it in New Jersey, can now more easily sell its recycled main byproduct, rather than the material being shipped off to a landfill.

“I became involved with CMC because of the inherent importance of their business to my district,” Coughlin said. “It’s one of the largest private employers and taxpayers in Sayreville. It’s also the largest recycler in New Jersey. And its workers are paid significantly better than other private sector jobs, plus good health benefits.”