NJMEP CEO Kennedy Prepares to Pass Baton

A mainstay of the New Jersey manufacturing industry is set to retire as John W. Kennedy, New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), announces the end of his 11-year tenure on May 31.

Peter Connelly

Succeeding Kennedy as CEO effective June 1 will be NJMEP Board Chair and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Peter Connolly. Connelly will also serve as NJMEP Center Director.

“I want to thank everyone that has worked alongside me and NJMEP, for their energy and push that helped us get through Superstorm Sandy, COVID, and — now — how we’re handling the supply chain and reshoring issues that includes the off-shore wind build-up. None of these things can be handled by a single individual,” Kennedy said. 

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A longtime champion for domestic manufacturing, Kennedy first took on the role of CEO in 2012. During that time, the NJMEP has continued its work with thousands of New Jersey manufacturers and offered support to the state’s manufacturing industry.

“John has given so much of himself to NJMEP and the entire manufacturing industry. His commitment to the people that drive manufacturing forward has taken NJMEP to new heights and shined a spotlight on the challenges domestic manufacturers face,” said Howard McIlvaine, Vice President of Operations for UNEX Manufacturing, Inc. and NJMEP Board Chair.

“Not only has he highlighted the challenges of local manufacturers, but he has also led NJMEP and the state to develop solutions to these disruptions to create a more competitive business landscape. He will be missed but I’m excited to work with Peter Connolly to continue John’s legacy of progress for New Jersey manufacturing,” McIIvaine added.

A fervent advocate for domestic manufacturing, Kennedy and the NJMEP supported the industry’s more than $4 billion growth in realized value, and helped the state understand the true benefit of this often-overlooked industry.  

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“I joined the board over 12 years ago and worked with John to ensure NJMEP provides the best possible support to the New Jersey manufacturing industry,” said Connelly. “I watched as the business grew and the impact on manufacturers soared.”

He added that he is “excited to pick up where John is leaving off” and will continue to follow the lead that his predecessor mapped out to steer “NJMEP forward.”

The goal is making sure manufacturing can flourish in New Jersey and across the United States, he said.

“Manufacturing drives our country forward and I’m proud to be part of that initiative,” Connelly said. 

Kennedy was pivotal in elevating NJMEP to become the top-rated Manufacturing Extension Program in the country. He brought the company from a 12-person operation to supporting nearly 50 full-time employees and over 200 independent industry resources.

During this time, NJMEP has grown to be a leader in the NIST MEP National Network, supporting the nationwide push to help individual manufacturing businesses all across the country grow, become more profitable and efficient.


NJMEP improves the profitability and competitiveness of New Jersey’s manufacturers. Backed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NJMEP enables organizations to enhance their productivity and efficiencies, reduce costs, and improve employee performance.

For more than 20 years, NJMEP has used its extensive network of connections and proven track record of success to help manufacturers adapt to the latest innovative technologies and best practices to realize more than $8 billion in value. Our services are categorized into the following three areas: Operational Excellence, Innovation and Growth, and Workforce Development.

Tyler Iglesias is a production assistant and writer for Meadowlands Media. He is currently studying Journalism and Mass Communication at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.