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CIANJ’s 89th Anniversary: Fighting for Free Enterprise Remains Our Mission

by: John Galandak

CIANJENTREPRENEUR AJ Khubani founded Fairfield, New Jersey based TeleBrands with just $20,000 more than three decades ago, while a student at Montclair State University. Today, the company is the world’s largest direct response marketing company with annual sales of more than $1 billion. As successful as he is today, Khubani recalls the risks that are inherent in starting a business.

“The initial challenge was cash flow,” he explains. “I invested almost everything on my first ad and some inventory. Just getting enough cash to continue to run the business was difficult. We didn’t make a profit for two years.”

Entrepreneurs like Khubani take huge risks when they start a business, and there is no guarantee that they will ever make a profit or thrive as a company after the initial investment. After 89 years of fighting for businesses, the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) is still working to educate local and state leaders who may not appreciate how difficult it is to start a business—particularly in New Jersey where costs are high and the regulatory burden is considerable.

Issues such as increasing business taxes, unfunded mandates, paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage and overregulation are pushed forward despite their negative impact on hard-working entrepreneurs—the very people who can create jobs and support the growth of the New Jersey economy. It’s our vital mission to stop as many of these antibusiness initiatives as possible.

In the 1970s, we advocated for business with a billboard campaign to educate the public about the value of free market principles. Driving the roadways in those years, you would see billboards that said, “Free Enterprise is the Fuel that Keeps America Growing,” or “Endangered Species: Free Enterprise.”

Fast forward to 2016, and CIANJ’s mission remains fighting for free enterprise principles and educating elected leaders about the need to support business and entrepreneurs who face so many challenges. Instead of creating more hurdles to achieve success, government must do everything it can to increase opportunities to build thriving companies, to create jobs and to support a vibrant business community in the Garden State. Often that means staying out of the way of progress.

In the spirit of saluting free enterprise and supporting entrepreneurs, CIANJ is pleased to have Fireman Capital Partners, LLC Chairman Paul Fireman—the former chairman and CEO of Reebok International, Ltd.—as the keynote speaker for this year’s 89th Annual Meeting & Luncheon. He is also known for converting prime real estate in New
Jersey that was laying fallow into the 160-acre Liberty National GC, one of the most prestigious golf courses in the United States. Today, Fireman has his sights set on another New Jersey project—creating Liberty Rising, a proposed $4.6 billion project adjoining Liberty National GC on the Hudson River, at the south end of Jersey City. The centerpiece of Liberty Rising is a 95-story skyscraper that would integrate a casino, a hotel and apartments, along with luxury shops and an entertainment complex. We believe that this project would be a huge boost to New Jersey’s economy. That’s why CIANJ is supporting the question on this November’s ballot to allow casinos to operate in North Jersey.

We have to work together to make New Jersey more business-friendly, and to welcome projects such as Liberty Rising, which will bolster our economy, create jobs and keep New Jersey competitive with other neighboring states. This is no easy task, but we will rededicate ourselves to fighting for free enterprise because it’s not only good for businesses, it’s essential for our long-term prosperity.

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