The other week I took a trip to New York City to meet with some professors at Columbia University. I took the train up to NYC and always find looking out the window and seeing the buildings along the way – many of them a telling sign of what has happened to our manufacturing base in the US – at least along the rail lines.
I was struck at how many places were boarded up, being torn down or just sitting there slowly crumbling. From Baltimore, to Delaware, to Philadelphia, to the suburban areas in New Jersey outside of New York it was just one vacant building after another or former industrial site being reclaimed and torn down. That always makes me sigh and wonder why. But, then I saw this sign in Trenton, the sign that always that makes me smile but speaks to a former time. Here is the sign. Trenton makes, the World Takes. Oh, how times have changed….
But, then I think about what MEP does and what it is focused on. I also thought about the centers that serve the territories along that trip – from the University of Maryland’s Manufacturing Assistance Center, the Delaware MEP, the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center in Philadelphia, the New Jersey MEP, and the Industrial Technology Assistance Center in New York City. These centers collectively are serving thousands of small and mid-sized manufacturers in helping them forward – to develop new products, improve their operational performance, move into new domestic and foreign markets to create jobs and opportunities in the United States.
I was reminded of a news story in NJBIZ I read citing Bob Loderstedt, the President and CEO of NJ MEP who suggested ““America has the talent and ability to rebuild this sector.” Imagine what we could accomplish by developing more effective objectives. Bob went to suggest that “it’s all about jobs, and that’s exactly what we can bring back if we emphasize this message.” If we embrace this thinking, together we can work to make a new future for manufacturing in the United States. Otherwise, we may all join Boxcar Willie and Penny DeHaven in singing the song “We Made Memories.” We have an opportunity and a choice, or maybe not.