Cory Booker showcases potential of Newark’s manufacturing sector at Rutgers Business School

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Cory Booker showcases potential of Newark’s manufacturing sector at Rutgers Business School | June 26, 2013

When Newark Mayor Cory Booker and a host of economic development officials gathered at Rutgers Business School recently to recognize Zago Manufacturing, the company’s birthday was only part of the reason for the event.

Story by Rutgers Business School:

After two decades in the city, the owners of the fastener-making company, which got its start in a business incubator at New Jersey Institute of Technology, made another huge investment in their business and in Newark when they installed a 50-kilowatt solar facility at their factory.

“This is a cavalcade of wins,” Booker said, “evidenced in one extraordinary company.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker emphasized the power of collaborations in his remarks about Zago Manufacturing.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker emphasized the power of collaborations, saying a collective action has “given us this tremendous busniess.”

The celebration came a month after Brookings Institution released a report highlighting Newark’s manufacturing sector – a hub of nearly 400 small- and mid-sized companies like Zago that collectively, employ 12,000 people and make everything from uniforms and paint brushes to cowboy hats and screws.

The Brookings report sets out a number of goals intended to help Newark capture the potential of its manufacturing hub, focusing on things such as adopting green business practices and advocating domestic sourcing. It also recommends identifying export opportunities for some of the companies and creating an industry consortia to promote strategies to procure electricity in the wholesale power market.

With the construction of its solar facility, Zago Manufacturing immediately became a poster child for the promise described in the report, which was completed as part of a partnership between Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program and the Newark Manufacturing Initiative.

Rutgers Business School professor Kevin Lyons, who is on the faculty in Supply Chain Management and Marketing Sciences, is part of the Newark Manufacturing Initiative.

The owners of Zago Manufacturing, Harvey Rottenstrich (left) and his wife Gail Friedberg.

The spirit of collaboration was also something Newark and its advocates wanted to showcase in the event celebrating Zago. “All through this,” said Chip Halleck, president and chief executive officer of Newark Regional Business Partnership, “you will hear collaboration and that’s the important part.”

For his part, Lyons, working with the city and groups like Made in Newark, has taken one of the report’s goals, a proposal for a one-stop resource center for local companies seeking assistance with business planning, supply chain sustainability and supplier readiness, and turned it into his pet project. With a class of graduate students, Lyons is working to make the resource center a reality.

“We are in a city blessed with institutions like Rutgers Business School that have an unending impact,” Booker said after the event. “Rutgers plays a leadership role.”

Jerry Creighton, executive director of NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center, Rutgers Business School Dean Glenn Shafer, Pete Ramsey, EVP of ECS Energy, Mayor Cory Booker and economic development officials from Newark surround Gail Friedberg and Harvey Rottenstrich, owners of Zago Manufacturing.

Some of the themes that Lyons and researchers from the Brookings Institution have stressed are critical for the Newark-based manufacturing companies to remain resilient, such as supply chain sustainability, are things the owners of Zago Manufacturing already know well.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have local suppliers,” said Gail Friedberg, the vice president of Zago Manufacturing. “We have convinced major companies to do business with us because of the proximity of our vendors.”

Peter Ramsey, an executive with ECS Energy, which designed the solar facility for Zago, detailed the impact on the company’s business: The solar panels are expected to reduce the company’s annual manufacturing energy load by 60 percent and lower carbon emissions by 100,000 pounds each year, he said.

Ramsey said another advantage of the solar facility is its ability to help keep Zago competitive in the global economy. “We hope other businesses,” he said, “are inspired by this example.”

-Susan Todd