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As 'mystery shopper,' U.K. magazine editor gives high marks to N.J.'s Business Action Center

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After a run-in with New Jersey’s nonprofit marketing arm three months ago at an international biotechnology convention in Boston, Michal Kaczmarski, markets editor of England-based Foreign Direct Investment Magazine, pitched a feature idea to his editor to determine firsthand if the state lives up to the group’s enthusiasm about its business-friendly climate.

“The biotech conference was a good opportunity for me to speak to the most active and helpful agencies about how they go about promoting their states … but there’s a difference between speaking to a promotional agency and them telling you they have great business opportunities, and actually experiencing it,” Kaczmarski said. “On this trip, I’ve been kind of like a mystery shopper, and I think the business-to-business approach of Choose New Jersey in trying to engage as many companies as possible is working well. If it’s easy for me to work with them, then it’s got to be easy for foreign investors.”

Kaczmarski said the state’s best bet for attracting foreign direct investment is through the Partnership for Action, which is made up of the state Economic Development Authority, Business Action Center and Choose New Jersey.

“Other states have similar partnerships, but this is a partnership that actually does feel like a partnership,” Kaczmarski said.

Kaczmarski said his profile stories of states tend to focus on what enables them to attract foreign direct investment, and since he said Choose New Jersey makes the companies he visited “feel really welcome in New Jersey,” the agency will be “one of the focal points of my report.”

“A lot of businesses I’ve talked to in other states say they don’t want to be too close to state officials … but I’ve gotten really good feedback from companies in New Jersey that are either already working with the state government and Choose New Jersey, or said they are willing to do that,” Kaczmarski said. “When I visited United Airlines today at Newark airport, they mentioned the state government reaches out to them whenever they need it … and they said they would not be investing so much money in Newark without that relationship.”

In addition to United Airlines, Kaczmarski’s research trip includes visits to Fluitec International; New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group; Citibank; Biggins, Lacey & Shapiro; United Water; and Panasonic Corp. — all of which he said shows “New Jersey doesn’t have other states’ problem of relying on one industry sector to build a stable economy.”

“Panasonic is a great success story, but what’s interesting to me is New Jersey is not trying to be what it’s not, and it doesn’t try to hide its problems. It doesn’t pretend to be a second New York or a tropical island floating around a sea of crisis, and it doesn’t pretend it’s easy to obtain new business in the state — though that doesn’t mean it’s not competitive for it,” Kaczmarski said. “From what I see, the state has a lot of potential and a lot of opportunities.”

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