In a quiet, air conditioned room in Jersey City, hundreds of Dell and Hewlett-Packard servers harness the power of computers to buy and sell stocks on Wall Street in the blink of an eye. While this technology is reliable—with millions of dollars flowing through our state—winning investments from businesses that put down roots and generate revenue here is all about public policy, driven by our elected leaders. Trenton decision-makers determine how business-friendly New Jersey is, and from tax policy to environmental regulations, making this case is anything but a sure thing. Companies can and do leave the state whenever they can find a better business climate somewhere else.
Since private sector jobs are created when private money flows into New Jersey—a process that requires passing business-friendly laws and providing incentives for businesses to locate and expand in the Garden State—our financial future depends on making the right choices at the voting booth and in the laws that our elected leaders put on the books.
This makes the upcoming November elections—where New Jersey will choose a new governor and every seat in the New Jersey State Legislative is in play— a very important crossroads for our state. As elections have consequences, this represents the first time since 2001 that the governorship and every seat in the Senate and Assembly are up for election at the same time. These elected leaders have a key role in making New Jersey more business-friendly.
While policymakers talk about being a great place for business—and have for years—actions determine how our state is perceived, and perception matters. Issues such as the minimum wage, paid sick leave, taxes, regulations and labor don’t represent New Jersey in the best light for businesses looking for a home. But surveys that look at location, education and quality of life routinely put our state at the top. We have an educated workforce, a great transportation system, good schools and a superior location—all of which can help attract new businesses, economic development and financial investment in our state’s economy.
New Jersey is already home to 20 Fortune 500 companies in major industries such as banking and financial services; biotechnology and life sciences; communications; and manufacturing. With Newark Liberty International Airport, 38,000 miles of highway and ports in Elizabeth, Newark, Jersey City and Camden, New Jersey is a prime center for logistics and distribution.
By leveraging New Jersey’s assets, more private sector jobs will be created, businesses will expand their operations here and, if we elect leaders who will step up and make business-friendly decisions in Trenton, companies in fast-growing industries will see the Garden State as a place to plant their corporate flags.
But we cannot ignore the challenges; for example, the Tax Foundation cites New Jersey as one of the “10 worst business climates” for its business tax policy and it remains a top outbound state, with businesses and workers leaving for better deals in other states. Cutting corporate taxes, improving the financial strength of local and state government, expediting approvals on new development projects and support for public-private partnerships are all steps in the right direction.
To attract more businesses, New Jersey cannot afford to bank on the value of its location and demographics alone— bringing companies and jobs and investment to our state requires getting rid of red tape, reducing regulations, lowering business taxes and offering incentives to encourage firms to expand right here in the Garden State. We need a governor, senators and assemblymen who are committed to this agenda—and, this year, voters will hopefully pick a winning team.