By Lauren Wanko
Employees at Unex manufacture gravity conveyors. The Lakewood based company exports their products throughout the country and internationally.
“I think people think of New Jersey with this place with the Bayway oil refinery and a lot of people who work in Philly and New York. New Jersey is a lot more than that,” said business owner Brian Neuwirth.
“The manufacturing industry is very much alive in New Jersey. As a matter of fact we are number 15 in the country in output,” said Melania Willoughby.
New Jersey Policy and Research Organization Foundation, an independent non-profit affiliated with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, released new analysis that shows the Garden State is a global hub for manufacturing.
“We have the ports, we have the airports, we have the transportation system that makes us uniquely qualified, because we are within 40 percent of the US population. When you are manufacturing, you obviously want to be here,” Willoughby said.
“New Jersey ranked number 12 nationally for the number of manufacturing establishments in the state. More than 7,500 producing everything from medical technology, to food, to pencils, says NJ PRO’s Willoughby.
“It creates a lot of jobs. Not only does it create jobs here, but by us manufacturing and getting product, the multiple effect in the economy is tremendous,” said Neuwirth.
Unex Manufacturing has about 85 employees. Owner Neuwirth says his company works to attract, train and retain a skilled workforce.
“We’re having a tough time filling jobs. The skills gap issue is really big, and a lot of that is the perception of this industry is being antiquated, dirty and low-paying,” said Neuwirth.
“Manufacturing jobs are very well-paying jobs and always have been, in addition to the fact that they also provide great benefits to employees because manufacturers desire highly-skilled, trained professionals,” Willoughby said.
Employees with a Bachelors Degree in industrial and manufacturing engineering earn an average of $91,000 a year in New Jersey, making it the eighth highest paying major in the state according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Willoughby says although manufacturing employment is projected to decrease by 2020 the industry is still expanding.
“The reason why manufacturing jobs may decline is because of the fact that we’re going into high tech manufacturing which is how we’re going to compete,” Willoughby said.
NJ PRO says in order to ensure that the manufacturing industry continues to thrive in the Garden State, businesses need reduced environmental regulations to expand and lower energy costs.