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NJ101.5 hosted a Town Hall on Thursday night celebrating the history of manufacturing in New Jersey.

But in honoring and acknowledging its rich past in the Garden State, NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka also said more needs be done to improve the sector’s future competitiveness.

“Here we are today in 2022 and it’s a challenging business climate, particularly for our manufacturers,” Siekerka told host and moderator Eric Scott. “You look at anything from labor mandates, some of our overly aggressive environmental rules that are on the cusp right now…

“On the one hand, we’re looking to give money by way of grants and opportunities to lift manufacturing and R&D. And at the same time, we’re passing overly aggressive rules that frankly could put them out of business tomorrow.”

The insightful discussion included in-studio guests John W. Kennedy, CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program and Ellen Pietrowitz-Phillips, President of L-E-M Plastics and Supplies in Fairfield.

Pietrowitz-Phillips’ company offers build-to-print fabrication for everything from aeronautical and space divisions to medical products and radio engineering.

Siekerka noted that the high-cost of doing business in New Jersey is particularly challenging for a New Jersey manufacturer like L-E-M Plastics that competes nationally or globally.

“When her cost of business is two to 10 times more than a manufacturer in another state, it’s very, very challenging for her to come in as potentially that low-cost bidder that she needs to be,” Siekerka said.

“And those are things that are policymakers need to keep at the top of their mind – that people like Ellen are competing nationally. We have to continue to ensure that we make those things in New Jersey to feed those industries because it’s significant to our economy and to all of the jobs is creates here.”

Siekerka also noted regional competition, as Pennsylvania is on a five-year path to lower its corporate business tax from 9.99% to 4.99%. New Jersey currently has the highest CBT rate in the nation at 11.5%.

“They took a comprehensive, long-term look at tax reform,” Siekerka said. “This is what we call for each and every day.”

While the business tax climate remains challenging for manufacturers, Siekerka lauded some of the programs being stood up by NJEDA – including a recently announced $20 million Manufacturing Voucher Program that will help manufacturers access new equipment and technology.

“We talk about reinvesting in our companies and now you can go and buy new equipment, new technology – things to take you to the next level of innovation,” Siekerka said. “Those are wise investments, and those opportunities exist.”

To see the full NJ101.5 Manufacturing Town Hall, click here.