One of the few business-related criticisms of the Chris Christie administration has been how it's handled its big-money incentive programs, such as Urban Transit Hub and the new iteration of Grow New Jersey. Under these programs, companies such as Goya, Panasonic and Lockheed Martin have been awarded millions of dollars in tax breaks to relocate within the state.
Critics have questioned the wisdom behind moves like this. Incentives with big companies become a zero-sum game, with states running one another into the ground in an effort to poach companies. There's a benefit in that companies are required to make capital investments and retain jobs, but job creation is always a thornier issue.
That's why we'd like to renew our call for smart incentives programs that benefit businesses that do add jobs, make investments in their local communities and have a demonstrated impact upon the economy. We're talking, of course, about small businesses.
Small-business owners continue to be a driving force for economic good in New Jersey and in other parts of the state. These companies do most of the hiring and most of the expansion in New Jersey, and are doing it in high-growth areas like technology and engineering — areas where the state is in most need of job growth, especially in a climate where employment continues to trail U.S. figures and long-term joblessness remains a top-line issue.
Of course, the state does have programs that offer set-asides to help smaller companies to grow. But we'd sure like to see a more robust portfolio that balances the importance of growing smaller companies along with the regrettable need to be in the game for the bigger guys. It's hard to feel that that's the case when the largest corporations can pull down $100 million-plus incentives — and that's not even getting into the huge awards claimed by Revel and American Dream.
Last week, we used this space to talk about New Jersey being well positioned to take advantage of its infrastructure in science and technology to grow a digital economy that could power it out of its economic doldrums. A big piece of that is having a strong suite of programs to help care for and feed the small companies in this space. We hope lawmakers consider the value of small businesses when they continue to discuss the pros and cons of corporate incentive packages.