The New Jersey Business Action Center was created by the Chris Christie administration to reach out to businesses considering moving to New Jersey or expanding here — and to intervene when discouraged companies consider pulling up stakes. It is part of the administration's Partnership for Action, which so far has worked with companies to attract or retain 67,000 jobs, according to Catherine Scangarella, marketing director for the BAC.
"We are the one-stop shop for the business community, and we use all our resources to bring all state resources to bear" to stimulate business investment, said Lauren H. Moore Jr., deputy executive director of the BAC, during a meeting today with NJBIZ. Besides the BAC, the Partnership for Action, led by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, includes the state Economic Development Authority, which provides loans and tax incentives to companies, and Choose New Jersey, an independent nonprofit that recruits businesses to move here.
Guadagno is well known as a highly visible member of the administration who meets with companies, speaks to business groups and often ends such engagements by giving out her mobile phone number. That's a stark contrast to years past, when "we would hear about companies that had left New Jersey, and there was no outreach to convince them to stay," said Elizabeth J. Mackay, senior policy adviser to the BAC.
Moore said a major change under Christie is the strong push to involve municipal and country officials in attracting and retaining businesses.
"Companies want to sit across the table from the mayor and say, 'If I bring a development here, will I get it built on schedule?' They want a local partner," Moore said. "Now, we bring in the mayor, the planning board director, the town attorney, and they know the project schedule will be made and their capital will not be dragged out."
Moore said the BAC has been working with municipalities to encourage best practices in economic development; he said there are some part-time local officials who don't always return phone calls promptly when a business owner expresses interest in locating in their town, or has a problem that might cause them to leave.
Moore said the BAC has a staff of about 60, and writes about 200 formal proposals a year detailing the state economic development incentives being offered to companies that agree to create or retain New Jersey jobs.
Encouraging New Jersey businesses to export, and attracting investment in New Jersey by foreign companies, is a major BAC initiative overseen by Eddy S. Mayen, director of the international business development and protocol. He said only about 1 percent of U.S. companies export, and "our job is to identify companies (whose products) are in demand in foreign markets, and to promote exporting." The BAC works with the U.S. Commerce Department, and has received a grant of more than $200,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration that will enable New Jersey companies to participate in upcoming trade missions to Canada and Colombia.
Moore said the BAC's call center is staffed by professionals with deep knowledge of state government — and whose job is to steer callers in the right direction to get answers from the government so they can do business in New Jersey.