From the Star Ledger:
Is New Jersey’s manufacturing era forever behind us?
Are the days when ceramics, glove molds, sinks and legendary Lenox china poured out of Trenton’s factories gone for good? When textiles, firearms and silk helped make Paterson a teeming metropolis? When naval submarines roared off assembly lines day and night in Elizabeth?
Not according to members of a new “manufacturing caucus.”
A bipartisan panel of state legislators is looking to technology to inject new life into what was once a defining portion of the Garden State’s economy – and still is a force to be reckoned with.
During the last century, half the state’s jobs were in manufacturing. And despite a decline over the last decades, the industry is still bringing in $40 billion, employing some 360,000 people in more than 10,000 companies.
The fledgling caucus believes those numbers can and should be even higher. And one way to start, the lawmakers suggest, is by ramping up the state’s vocational-technical training.
While she welcomed news of a possible new state bond issue to provide for more vo-tech learning, she also lamented the fact that too many people continue to look down their noses at those who pursue this path, rather than opting for a college-prep education.
“Truth be told, there is still a stigma,” Savage acknowledged.
And yet, as another meeting speaker pointed out, manufacturing jobs offer an average annual salary of more than $90,000 – way better than the state’s median household income.
That’s reassuring news in a state that’s still struggling to shake off the effects of the Recession of 2008.
Shoring up the state’s training programs is just one strategy to make manufacturing king again. Transportation infrastructure also is a big component, as is a penetrating look at both regulations and tax structures.