New Jersey’s offshore wind industry is just starting to take root, representing a transformational opportunity for our state, inaugurating a new mode of producing clean, renewable energy for the region and generating pathways for job creation, supply chain investment and workforce development at a large scale. For New Jersey’s small, minority-, women- and veteran-owned business enterprises (SMWVBEs, as they often are classified), this new sector offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accelerate inclusive economic development through billions of dollars of contract opportunities, significant job growth, investments in human capital and expanded business know-how.
Historically, the SMWVBE community has faced systemic barriers to entry into high-growth industries. For example, SMWVBEs often encounter a sizeable disadvantage when competing for supply chain contracts in emerging sectors or are left out of early contracts in new industries. The Garden State’s nascent offshore wind industry presents a unique opportunity to upend this cycle, instead building an industry representative of our diverse population. It’s not just about participation; it’s about providing a significant role for diverse businesses in offshore wind that will create ripples of economic advancement for generations to come.
The upcoming award of the third offshore wind solicitation from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities represents billions of dollars of supply chain contracting — a tremendous opportunity for bold action, strategic investment and collaborative efforts that will create a sustainable, equitable supply chain. This opportunity to bring SMWVBE contractors, manufacturers and suppliers into New Jersey’s clean energy economy will uplift our communities and provide meaningful economic advancement, but only if we do this right.
Placing value on proposals that prioritize incorporating SMWVBEs into the offshore wind supply chain not only promotes equitable economic growth, but leverages the unique perspectives and skills these businesses bring. This approach aligns with the state’s broader goals of fostering a more inclusive and diverse economy, ensuring that the growth from offshore wind is not just substantial, but sustainable and equitable.
This isn’t just theoretical. As leaders of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, we interact with the local businesses and SMWVBEs every day that are ready to take on offshore wind work.
Millhouse Construction Engineering Inc., a Newark-located AACCNJ member business, offers expertise in civil, mechanical, electrical, structural and environmental engineering, and is well-suited to bring its innovative approach to tackling complex engineering projects to the offshore wind industry. Another example is Warfighter Oil, a New Jersey-certified Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Business (and NJMEP client) that manufacturers environmentally safe machinery lubricants produced from locally sourced materials that can be used on engines, motors, manufacturing equipment and more. Finally, Home Sweet Home, a Latina-owned construction company, and a graduate of SHCCNJ’s Hispanic Entrepreneurship Training Program and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Small Business Bonding Readiness Program, is the type of company that can handle small scopes of work on larger construction projects.
The potential economic development opportunity from the offshore wind industry is substantial, and it’s imperative to channel a significant portion of this multibillion-dollar investment into SMWVBEs by focusing on projects that are committed to diverse supply chain practices. Take Leading Light Wind — a proposed offshore wind project being developed by Invenergy and energyRe — which, if awarded, will provide up to $227.5 million in contracts to SMWVBE businesses while also rolling out the Waves to Wind program, a catalytic training program designed to position existing small businesses for success in offshore wind contracting opportunities. New Jersey needs to prioritize offshore wind projects such as Leading Light Wind to ensure that this growing industry lifts up SMWVBEs along the way.
Ensuring New Jersey maintains a focus on integrating SMWVBEs into the offshore wind supply chain is critical: It will spur job creation and power equitable economic growth, benefiting the state’s economy at a scale never seen before. By empowering SMWVBEs, New Jersey can lead in offshore wind and set a national benchmark for inclusive economic development.
John Harmon is the CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. Carlos Medina is the CEO of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. Peter Connolly is the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program.