The New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) will take over the State House in Trenton at its annual Made In New Jersey Day.

A fixture in the halls of the Jersey Legislature since 1996 — this will be 18th edition of the event — Made In New Jersey Day will feature 28 Garden State firms that will get a chance to rub elbows with top New Jersey lawmakers and officials and showcase their Made In New Jersey products. The selected companies will be the stars of the program, which is being held on Thursday, March 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Why do we have 28?” asks NJBIA First Vice President Frank Robinson, who oversees this event each year. “We settled on that number because, with the configuration of the halls in the State Legislature, that’s really all we have room for. The idea is to remind our state officials we still make a lot of diverse products in New Jersey. From food products to items for the military, we produce it right here.”

Robinson noted that between 60 to 70 firms apply to participate in the event each year, from which 28 are chosen. The NJBIA selection committee aims for diversity. “For instance,” says Robinson, “we won’t select similar companies that manufacture the same product or provide the same service. We’ll look at that from year-to-year as well. The goal is to give our members ‘hands-on’ exposure at this event. We take all the applications received, and a panel makes decisions on who we can include each year.”

A company must be a member of the NJBIA to be eligible for selection. The chosen exhibitors set up a display table to showcase their Jersey-made products. In addition, firms can contribute 400 Jersey-made products that produce NJBIA sampler bags that are distributed to all 120 legislators.

NJBIA also solicits sponsorships for the event, promising “high visibility” in return for the $1,000 investment in that area.

“The key is the product has to be made by a Jersey firm in Jersey,” says Robinson. “We have associate members who manufacture products elsewhere, and do business in the state, but, for this event, it’s all in-state products and in-state companies.”

The chosen exhibitors are not charged for set up or any other procedure, and breakfast and lunch are included with the opportunity to meet with as many legislators as possible during the day.

“It’s really been an excellent event for our legislators and our members,” says Robinson, who has been in his position with the NJBIA since 2002. Prior, he served as executive director of the New Jersey General Assembly Democratic Office.

The goal of the NJBIA is to provide information, services, and advocacy to its member companies in order to build a more prosperous New Jersey. The Trenton-based organization, with 21,500 members employing more than one million people, celebrated its centennial in 2010.

NJBIA, a non-profit (www.njbia.org), was formed in 1910 as the Manufacturers Association of New Jersey by a group of manufacturers who wanted to share ideas about workplace safety, and who wanted to have a say in government policies affecting their businesses — goals the organization adheres to today.

“We’re here to be a voice for New Jersey manufacturers,” says Robinson. “Any company can apply to join as long as they are a Jersey company making products in Jersey. We have a sliding dues scale. A small company with 25 or fewer employees pays $185 annually.”

In addition, many of the NJBIA events bridge the gap between its members and state officials. It offers members discounts in areas such as shipping programs, credit card processing, and energy management.

It publishes New Jersey Business Magazine in both print and digital format. It uses social media and web-based material to bring its members breaking news. It is also affiliated with the New Jersey Policy Research Organization and Employer Legislative Committees. The NJBIA and New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) have been partnered since its first insurance policy was written in 1913.

As an advocate for its members, NJBIA pushes for economic development policies that strengthen New Jersey’s business climate and encourage business expansion. It aims to create a more favorable tax structure for business and entrepreneurs, remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles and provide targeted job-creation incentives.

It has been a part of many legislative successes for New Jersey business, including Expanded Job Creation Tax Incentives, the state’s Business Relocation and Retention Assistance Grants (BRRAG), Atlantic City Revitalization, and Urban Enterprise Zones (UEZ) sales tax exemption programs.

The NJBIA’s mantra also includes a statement that New Jersey can have both an effective environmental policy and strong business climate.

“The public is invited to Made In New Jersey Day as well,” says Robinson. “It’s a good opportunity for our state, a good day to show the best our members have to offer.”

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