Sometimes, it seems you need a sixth sense to succeed in business. Sometimes, you just need to be able to smell the blood in the water.
That's what New Jersey has to be doing as leaders in government and industry pore over early comments from New York's mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio, who has looked decidedly populist when compared to Michael Bloomberg.
That's not to say Bloomberg didn't take a keen, if sometimes misguided, approach to using his office to support populist causes; his crusades against smoking and trans fats are just two examples of that. But when it came to business interests, corporations and CEOs knew they had a supporter in Bloomberg, a business magnate who made fortunes in investment banking as well as through Bloomberg L.P. De Blasio is very much an untested commodity, but his progressive agenda has executives quietly grumbling about what the future might hold.
On the other side of the Hudson, it feels like Christmas coming early. Not only is the corporate class uneasy about de Blasio, the Jersey side has Chris Christie in the governor's office, and while he doesn't have the kind of conservative credentials they want in Iowa, he's got a deep background of business accomplishments, not the least of which has to be the incentives realignment he signed earlier this year.
Christie's got plenty of people discussing New Jersey's improved business climate and his own chances in the 2016 presidential race — and then there's his undeniable celebrity appeal. Suddenly, if you're the CEO of a big company, moving offices and employees to the Garden State doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
This isn't the kind of opportunity New Jersey can afford to waste. With its employment recovery still lagging neighboring states, the momentum afforded by the successful recruitment of a few big companies would be staggering.
New York's employment empire wasn't built in a day, and it won't disappear just because a populist Democrat is taking over for the pro-business independent Bloomberg. But if New Jersey can get a bite of its lunch, instead of its usual banquet of scraps from Manhattan's table, it will be a welcome change of pace in the Garden State.