With the construction of a 50-kilowatt solar array, Zago Manufacturing, a mid-sized fastener-maker, became a poster child for the potential described in a recent Brookings Institution report highlighting Newark's industrial hub.

NEWARK, N.J., July 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130711/DC45555)

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."   

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 that 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 sector and to build on it. The report focuses on things such as green business practices, domestic sourcing and identifying export opportunities for some of the companies. It also recommends creating a consortium to promote strategies for procuring electricity in the wholesale power market and for removing reusable waste from manufacturing companies.  

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 teaches Supply Chain Management and was active in the Manufacturing Initiative, said Zago sets an example of what's possible for the city's industrial sector through its growth and its investment. "By them investing in the factory, the direct benefit is that they will stay," Lyons said.

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. "Rutgers plays a leadership role."

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, shared details that explain the impact of the solar power on the company's business: The solar panels are expected to reduce the company's annual manufacturing energy load by 60 percent and lower its carbon emissions by 100,000 pounds each year, he said.

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

SOURCE Rutgers Business School


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