As president of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, I think it's pretty clear that New Jersey's businesses are a major focus for me. After reading Andrew George's article about companies leaving New Jersey, and his stark list of "losses," I felt it was only fair to highlight the other side of the equation and discuss some recent "wins."
February 2010 saw New Jersey and the nation at an economic low point -- record-high unemployment, regulatory uncertainty and a fractured collection of incentives and programs. At that time, the state took a firm, proactive stand to streamline incentives, giving businesses more opportunities to get assistance. Some of these financial incentives have gone a long way in attracting from other states companies that are household names, like Forbes and hhgregg. Others have helped retain and expand existing companies, like Church & Dwight, Mars and JPMorgan Chase -- companies that not only chose New Jersey originally, but reaffirmed that choice.
Consider the retention success of United Water, which provides water and wastewater services to approximately 7 million people in the United States. This year, executives considered consolidating to a facility in Paramus or relocating out of state to a facility in New York. There were 294 jobs are risk, and representatives from the state's Parternship for Action worked closely with the company, ultimately rewarding a Grow New Jersey Assistance Program grant worth approximately $5.5 million to retain those jobs in New Jersey.
Indeed, since the signing of the bipartisan Economic Opportunity Act about a year ago, 50 projects have been approved under the Grow NJ Program for a total award amount of more than $1.1 billion to be earned over time following the creation of more than 7,200 new jobs and the retention of more than 8,100.
Andrew George had a good point in his article -- it's not just about the money. So, let's consider why companies like Amazon, Checkpoint Systems, HarperCollins, Pepsi-NJ, Tommy Moloney's and Tropical Cheese have come to or expanded in New Jersey even without any direct financial incentives from the state at all. More and more companies are seeing that there are other advantages to doing business in New Jersey.
We have the best seaport and prime access to transportation and major national markets. We have recognizably improved business climate. We have the country's most highly-educated workforce. We have the PFA, which helps businesses navigate through the resources available to them and takes additional steps to advocate for and support business in areas like site location, workforce recruitment and connecting businesses with colleges, universities and technical programs.
This month, New Jersey's unemployment rate has dropped by 6.5 person. Since February 2010, private sector employment has increased by 149,400 jobs. The state's efforts are working to the benefit of New Jersey businesses and residents. And companies are staying in New Jersey.
So Mr. George -- while you're right that we can't "win 'em all," let's be sure to recognize that we do win a great many of them.
Written by: John Galandak, who is president of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ, a statewide business advocacy organization representing members from virtually every business sector in the state, with offices in Paramus and Trenton. He is also publisher/CEO of Commerce Magazine/Commerce Enterprises, Inc., the Association’s media arm. CIANJ’s mission is to be the leader in free enterprise advocacy for the purpose of providing, through education, legislative vigilance, and membership interaction, an economic climate that enhances business potential and makes New Jersey a better state in which to live, work and conduct business. He often testifies before state legislative committees regarding pending legislation and was appointed by Governor Christie to serve as a member of the Red Tape Review Commission