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New Jersey, the Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Still Leads in Manufacturing

New Jersey has a rich history as the birthplace of America’s industrialization. Paterson, also known as “The Industrial City,” is where Alexander Hamilton’s vision of harnessing the power of the Great Falls of the Passaic River to create a manufacturing hub in New Jersey came to life in the late 18th century. Years later, New Jersey is where the country’s first steam locomotive came to life, and years after that, where Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. For over 200 years, manufacturing has been part of the state economy’s DNA. But more than merely a proud part of our history, manufacturing is the foundation of our bright future. 

Yup, We Make That Here

Across the United States, national manufacturing output increased by 5.3% from September 2021 to September 2022, according to the Federal Reserve. New Jersey is a leader in this resurgence, averaging about the same percentage increase annually over the past four years, which ranks in the top seven states nationally. 

More than 2,500 advanced manufacturers operate in New Jersey, from large pharmaceutical companies to small machine shops, and the state’s total number of manufacturers is close to 11,000. These companies directly employ more than 250,000 workers and contribute about $50 billion to New Jersey’s GDP. Industry leaders such as Anheuser-Busch, Benjamin Moore, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Lockheed Martin all have significant manufacturing operations in the state. 

In September 2021, after a competitive national search, Princeton-based venture capital firm SOSV selected Newark as the location for the United States headquarters of HAX, its program for launching tech companies focused on addressing difficult technological challenges. The $50 million state-of-the-art facility is expected to accelerate industrial, healthcare, and climate startups that will attract thousands of new high-tech jobs and millions of dollars in capital investments to Newark. 

Recently, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority announced its Manufacturing Voucher Program, funded by a $20 million grant from the State government. The program is intended to help manufacturers purchase equipment to integrate new technology, processes, and materials. The program will award grants valued at 30% to 50% of the cost of eligible equipment, including installation, up to $250,000. Bonuses are being given to certified woman-, minority-, or veteran-owned businesses, as well as businesses in Opportunity Zones and those that buy their equipment in New Jersey. 

Chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum, and food manufacturing have long been New Jersey’s production stalwarts. But today, our companies make everything from wind turbines and bio-fabricated leather to Welch’s Fruit Snacks and Smarties. You name it, we make it here in New Jersey.  

The ‘Food Capital of America’

With New Jersey’s strong culinary culture, it’s no surprise that the state is a leader in food manufacturing. Public Radio International even dubbed New Jersey the “Food Capital of America.” 

And because many of the world’s leading food companies call New Jersey home, the state boasts a thriving $105 billion food industry with 1,900 food manufacturers, thousands of food distribution centers, retailers, restaurants, and farms.

From iconic global brands to growing startups, New Jersey provides ideal opportunities to all food companies. Campbell Soup Company has been in Camden since 1869 and continues to invest in its headquarters and community. Mars Wrigley has been making M&Ms in Hackettstown since 1958. Bai Brands, a maker of coffee fruit-infused beverages, was launched out of a Princeton basement in 2009. Indoor environment agriculture company Oishii opened the world’s largest vertical strawberry farm in Jersey City in May of 2022 they grow strawberries preferred by Michelin-starred chefs across the world, five rows deep in a converted beer factory. PIM Brands, Inc. makes candies and snacks, including the beloved Welch’s Fruit Snacks.

AeroFarms in Newark is the first indoor vertical farming company to be a Certified B Corporation. Since being founded in 2004, AeroFarms has increased its production of sustainably grown leafy greens and microgreens by expanding to Virginia and Abu Dhabi. Its farming technology creates the ideal conditions for plants to grow, increasing food safety and productivity. AeroFarms uses 95% less water than a typical field farm and no pesticides. This year, it was recognized by Fortune as a “Change The World Company.” 

Nestlé Health Science, one of the subsidiaries of the Swiss food and beverage giant, cited the “commercial and technical competence” of the New Jersey region’s workforce as a key factor in the company’s decision to build its new headquarters and R&D facility in New Jersey. 

This fertile climate for food innovation in the state is supported by the award-winning Rutgers Food Innovation Center (FIC). FIC is a unique business incubator and economic accelerator that offers marketing, technical, regulatory, and manufacturing expertise. FIC’s state-of-the-art USDA and FDA-inspected food processing facility has served more than 1,500 clients since 2001. FIC is the only “Soft Landings” incubator in the world devoted to food, providing valuable support to startups and established food companies alike. Impossible Foods, maker of the plant-based Impossible Burger, credits FIC as critical to its scale-up path to develop production lines and seed the market.

Why New Jersey Makes Sense for Manufacturers

Location 

New Jersey moves products quickly and efficiently in one of the most connected regions in the United States. In a single day’s drive, producers located in New Jersey can reach 33% of the entire United States’ population. A distribution center in the central part of the state can serve more than 38 million consumers within a 2-hour drive. These same manufacturers are in close proximity to thousands of retailers and suppliers. 

New Jersey is home to the Port of New York and New Jersey, one of the busiest seaports for imports in North America and the largest maritime cargo center on the East Coast. New Jersey’s 5 Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs), including one of the largest contiguous FTZs in the United States, help manufacturers control the costs of importing and exporting their goods. 

Workforce development 

New Jersey offers one of the most highly specialized workforces in the United States: 

  • 42% of the workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher (compared to 38% nationally) 
  • Highest concentration of scientists and engineers per square mile in the United States 
  • Home to the #1 university (Princeton University) and the best public schools in the United States 

New Jersey’s colleges and vo-tech schools are expanding curriculums, degree offerings, and industry collaborations to address the growing demand for high-tech workers.  

The Rowan University at Burlington County Workforce Development Institute provides students and job seekers with the tools they need to develop their education around careers available in today’s job market. It expertly matches the skills of local job seekers with the needs of employers. 

The County College of Morris (CCM) combines student and workforce needs through its Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing program and welcomes industry partnerships at its new Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Center (AMEC).  

The New Jersey Community College Consortium’s (NJCC) Advanced Manufacturing Training Initiative consults with companies on workforce development and then recruits, trains, and certifies individuals to fill job openings at New Jersey manufacturers.  

Relocate Your Business Today and FOR the Future

New Jersey is the best place to live, work, and play. At Choose New Jersey, our team has the knowledge and resources to help your business thrive here. Whether you’re just starting up or looking to relocate or expand operations, consider New Jersey your new home — several companies already have. For more information about our services, contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you! 

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WHAT CAN CHOOSE New Jersey DO FOR YOU

Relocation & Expansion Services

We provide customized RFI responses, demographics, detailed market assessments and other complimentary business relocation and expansion services. When your company chooses to grow in New Jersey, we also will help you publicize your good news.

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Economic Development Connections

Our public and private partners provide a wide range of services. From higher education research collaboration to regulatory and legal assistance to workforce training, they’ll ensure you have a smooth landing.

Ryan Fox
Business Development Officer