Newark’s Manufacturing Competitiveness: Findings and Strategies

Home to a diverse array of manufacturing activities—from food, apparel, and chemical production to metal fabrication— the city of Newark’s industrial legacy is widely appreciated. However, the city’s manufacturing sector, like the nation’s, has transformed dramatically in recent decades, reshaped by local, regional, and global economic forces. Today, most of Newark’s 400 manufacturers are small businesses that compete under different constraints than they and their predecessors did only a generation ago. Some have adapted well to shifting conditions, while others have stagnated or struggled to stay competitive.

Newark manufacturing is a small but promising sector that stands at an important crossroads. Yet, in recent years, trends regarding the structure, scale, and value of the sector to the city and region have neither been well-documented nor well understood. Instead, as in many American cities, misconceptions about manufacturing persist in Newark, compounding challenges for businesses and resulting in lost economic opportunities.

This report seeks to alter that paradigm. It is the culmination of the initial year of the Newark Manufacturing Initiative (NMI), which has included a collaboration with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. This collaboration has focused on the development of transformative strategies to improve the local and regional climate for manufacturing. Informed by both in-depth quantitative analysis of Newark’s manufacturing sector and engagement with local stakeholders, this report argues that Newark manufacturing can play a key role in supporting a local and regional transition to a more resilient “next economy”—one driven by the creation of quality jobs and broad-based inclusion in innovative, low-carbon, export-intensive industries.