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President’s View: New Jersey Must Be “Open” for Business

by: Anthony Russo

ONE OF NEW Jersey’s first diners can be traced back to my hometown, Jersey City, where a lunch wagon built in Bayonne fed hungry workers and started what became diner culture. Our traffic and busy highways still support these classic culinary joints—throwbacks to a simpler time when people of all social and economic ranks dined in the same place, together. Diners still represent a kind of town square where conversation comes easy and barriers seem to fade away.

As we begin 2018, we need to come together more often and address many key challenges facing our New Jersey, from outward migration of educated students seeking a lower cost of living elsewhere to rising healthcare costs to anti-competitive legislative initiatives from policymakers that don’t appreciate the needs of our businesses.

But Governor-Elect Phil Murphy inherits a diamond in the rough, a New Jersey with significant problems, but also a state with great potential.

The Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) looks forward to working with the new governor—and the legislature—to tap into the best of the Garden State, to grow the economy and to address legacy issues such as state-funded healthcare and pension liabilities. CIANJ will advocate policies that will unleash our business community to create jobs and be a financial engine, which will signal to all that “New Jersey is open for business.”

CIANJ knows how much New Jersey’s business community can contribute to the greater good, if allowed to thrive by being freed from unnecessary regulations and not burdened by ill-advised Trenton mandates and laws that place them at a competitive disadvantage.

A $15 minimum wage and an expanded paid sick leave requirement, for example, are agenda items that could weaken the positive economic impact of New Jersey-based companies in the near-term and for the future. We have to tell our story to legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle, so they can appreciate the consequences of damaging businesses by trying to run them from the halls of Trenton. Free enterprise is not just words, and the emphasis must be on giving entrepreneurs the freedom to build a business.

Fortunately, we have CIANJ Board Members serving on various transition teams working for Governor-Elect Murphy: Uli Diaz of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey (Government Technology & Innovation); Gail Callandrillo of The Valley Hospital (Healthcare); Sam Delgado of Verizon (Military and Veterans Affairs); Monica Slater Stokes of United Airlines (Transportation and Infrastructure); and Ramapo College President Peter Mercer (Urban and Regional Growth). This representation will help CIANJ advocate for business issues in the Garden State.

CIANJ plans to expand its Legislative Forums so more business leaders will have their voices heard by our elected representatives. We are also looking to create smaller venues where eye-to-eye discussions can take place, and ideas can be shared. Business leaders cannot afford to be silent, when so many important issues are being debated in Trenton. CIANJ is also adding a new voice to its team with the addition of Anthony Perry, who will join us as our new Director of Government Affairs this month. His prior position was the chief of staff to Senator Joseph Kyrillos from Monmouth County, and before that, he was an aide to Governor Chris Christie. Perry also serves the residents of Middletown Township as a councilman.

We are also enhancing our communications program and outreach efforts to Trenton and statewide with the addition of CIANJ Manager of Communications and Social Media Tracy Schoenberg to our staff this month. She is responsible for handling all external communications for CIANJ. Schoenberg has an extensive background in media, including experience in television news production, journalism and freelance writing, and is an elected official serving the residents of Oradell as council president.

New Jersey is hungry for leadership as a new governor and legislature are sure to bring change to our state. It’s important that CIANJ and business leaders team up to advocate for the issues that will determine how the economy evolves and to what degree we can—together—bring prosperity to the Garden State.

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