While the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce has been focused on fundraising for victims of Hurricane Sandy, its disaster-related efforts will shift to brainstorming concrete plans to rebuild the state at the end of January, when business leaders and legislators make their annual trek to the nation's capital.
"In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and with a gubernatorial election approaching, our trip to Washington will be extremely important," said Thomas A. Bracken, president and CEO of the state Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. "In addition to the traditional business networking that occurs naturally on our trip, our elected officials and business leaders can use the Walk to Washington to discuss plans for the recovery and the rebuilding of the parts of our state devastated by the storm."
To target discussion on the recovery, spokesman Scott Goldstein said the chamber has rebranded the two-day trip for the first time in the event's 76-year history as the Walk to Washington and Drive to ReNew Jersey, and it expects to replace the traditional Friday morning reporter's roundtable on Feb. 1 with a panel discussion that will give participating companies a platform to talk about effective rebuilding strategies.
"Emerging from a down economy and emerging from a devastating storm — that's what's on everybody's minds and that's what we are going to talk about," Goldstein said. "Many of our member companies have a lot to contribute and bring to the table when it comes to rebuilding New Jersey — like engineering, architecture and environmental firms — so we're encouraging them to come to Washington this year."
Goldstein said the chamber is looking to host a series of panels on recovery efforts following the Walk to Washington and Drive to ReNew Jersey event, but in an effort to start those conversations beforehand, the group will host New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Michele Brown and Tim Lizura, its president and chief operating officer, to inform its members about state assistance programs related to business recovery at its last breakfast roundtable before the trip on Dec. 14.
"There are a lot of legislative and economic issues that concern businesses right now, but we expect the rebuilding process to be a main topic at our events from now on, even if it's not the main focus," Goldstein said. "But our plan is that, for Walk to Washington, it will be."