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Advertisers: Strategy to lure Ill. companies a 'tremendous waste'

By , - Last modified: January 25, 2011 at 7:11 PM

Gov. Chris Christie spent most of his first year in office convincing New Jersey companies that when it comes to business, he means business.

(Courtesy Tim Larsen / Office of the Governor)

Now, he’s taking that show on the road, on Tuesday launching a media campaign targeting companies in Illinois — a state that now has a 9.5 percent corporate business tax, higher than New Jersey’s own 9 percent. Still, New Jersey advertising executives feel solely sticking to the numeric advantages won't win over on-the-fence companies.

The message the governor is trying to promote is his commitment not to raise taxes, and he’s advertising that in newspapers and on radio stations throughout the Land of Lincoln. Earlier this month, Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno began personally reaching out to business owners to invite them to relocate here.

“The job creators of our country are mobile, and they are looking for a climate that provides the certainty and stability that comes with a fiscally responsible government that manages its budgets accordingly,” Christie said in a statement.  “In New Jersey, we mean business.”

But as that campaign stands, said Dave Scelba, CEO of Montville-based SGW Integrated Marketing Communications, it’s a “tremendous waste” of money. Although he said he agrees Christie should be the state’s marketing officer, the particular tactic being employed is not the most effective strategy. Mass marketing doesn’t specifically target the companies most likely to move, which are probably only the large businesses.

“Pick up the phone and call them,” Scelba said. “Nothing is going to be more effective than that.”

Meanwhile, Jim Wurster, executive vice president of the Paramus-based advertising firm CSI Group, said ads should promote more benefits than just slightly lower business taxes, such as the Jersey Shore, proximity to Manhattan and an educated work force. These are some of the aspects of the state Wurster feels will help tip the scale after a business figures out if the move to New Jersey is financially feasible.

The governor’s office has been working with the state Economic Development Authority on how to win over out-of-state companies. According to Laura Jones, the agency’s communications director, the state first wants to see if there’s interest, then work with the company from there.

Jones added that they really want to make sure companies know New Jersey has a handle on taxes, and that the governor is making the state a “good environment for business.”

New Jersey isn’t the only state competing for Illinois’ business. Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri also are making bids to lure companies — and those states aren't hampered by New Jersey's high cost of living, Scelba said. Regardless, Wurster believes New Jersey still has to try.

“I think he’s doing the right thing,” Wurster said. “You’ve got to be in it. If you’re not trying to get them, then it’s not going to happen.”

E-mail Laura Mortkowitz at lmortkowitz@njbiz.com

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