Walk to Washington: Overheard on the train

By Tom Bergeron and Anjalee Khemlani
Washington, D.C. | Mar 1, 2018 at 6:02 pm
Special Report

OK, maybe it wasn’t overheard. Maybe we asked some of the riders on the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual Walk to Washington train to give us a thought (or two) on the state of the state, especially as it pertains to business.

They did just that.

Some for attribution — others only as “riders of the train.”

Here are some of the best reactions:

For attribution (in alphabetical order)

“I feel like New Jersey business is picking up. You know the statistics. We have great accessibility, 130 miles of shoreline; we have proximity to every major access point and it’s a great place to be. We welcome all businesses to New Jersey. And this train ride is a great example of the energy that really emanates from the New Jersey business community.”

Linda Bowden, New Jersey regional president, PNC Bank

“Taxes are inextricably linked to outmigration, both in terms of the younger generation leaving the state to find more affordable college solutions and, at the top of the income spectrum, when you have people losing their property tax deduction at the federal level and facing the prospect of a millionaires tax, there’s enormous potential for outmigration surrounding the tax issue. When it comes to infrastructure, as a corridor state, all of our business development and hopes of economic development are inextricably linked to our ability to have a sound, productive and maintained infrastructure.”

Brigid Callahan Harrison, professor of political science and law, Montclair State University

“I’m interested to hear what (Gov. Phil Murphy) has to say tonight, but I think he’s going to start to lay the seeds for what the budget proposal is going to look like. I’m cautiously optimistic and hopeful that he focuses on the right things.”

Tom Comiskey, regional president, M&T Bank

“Transportation and outmigration are linked, because transportation is the reason why you go and do business in New Jersey. You don’t go to North Dakota, which would be much cheaper, because you have to be able to get to the 20 percent of the American population in four hours — and that requires roads and bridges and planes and ships that can do all the things they have to do. Addressing outmigration is important, because you have to get 24-year-olds to stay in New Jersey. And they’ll stay if they are able to get around easily to do business.”

Ben Dworkin, director, Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship, Rowan University

“New Jersey is a state with a tremendous economic state and foundation from which to grow and work. We have challenges. A lot of the challenges in New Jersey are our fiscal challenges. And those definitely have to be addressed. But we definitely do have a strong foundation and, more importantly, New Jersey has a really strong innovation economy upon which we can really grow into the future.”

Gil Medina, executive vice president, CBRE

“If you fix the infrastructure, I think the free market will take care of itself.”

Guy Piserchia, mayor, Long Hill Township

“The business climate in New Jersey is very challenging, but it’s full of opportunity. Berkeley College is very focused on a robust New Jersey economic environment. We have 3,000 graduates every year that we need to train to make sure they can find good jobs in the state of New Jersey. If we can get through some of the structural issues with good leadership, the possibilities are endless.”

Michael Smith, president, Berkeley College

“I see New Jersey as a great opportunity where plenty of good things are happening. Our strategic location for industrial development is second to none, we’re going to be able to really ramp up in the solar area again as we have before with new policies coming through Trenton. There are going to be loads of opportunities for businesses to expand, to take the benefits from the new incentives that are coming. Really, I think it’s going to be a great place to be for the next few years.”

Dennis Toft, member, Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi

Without attribution

“I think we need to change the way we permit, bring and streamline companies that want to do business in the state. We need to have more transparency and we need less government interfering in small businesses opening and we need to make pathways to that, so that more businesses can come into the state without feeling strapped by regulations.”

“It’s mixed. Sometimes it feels like the Dickens novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ There are some areas that are doing well, warehousing, distribution type things. But I think the day-to-day, the core is not working out. We do things that make it too hard (for businesses).”

“It’s improving. Businesses have an optimistic view of doing business in New Jersey, but they are cautious and still concerned over some of the progressive policies that have been prioritized by the new administration.”

“The $15 minimum wage fight is obsolete. We have to stop (messing) around and just do it. The market will correct itself, trust me. That’s why it’s the market. It will self-correct. If I have to pay a little more for something, so people who are in poverty or the most dire straits, so they can support themselves, (I will). Those are things that also impact the criminal justice system in a positive way. I’m not going to try and steal your car if I have a $20-an-hour job that helps me support my lifestyle. Most of those crimes are crimes of opportunity. So, we have to do it.”

“(Murphy) is doing OK in terms of keeping his relationships with the public and his communications with the minority community. Democrats are being a barrier to him, that’s a fact. I don’t like it, to be quite frank about it, and so we can’t get to the stuff we want to at this point. Business is starting to turn around. It just got stable. Sometimes, what we do in government is ineffective and the economy takes care of itself.”

“It’s stagnant. It’s time to accelerate it.”

“It’s in transition.”

Read all of ROI-NJ’s Walk to Washington coverage

ROI-NJ Staff | editorial@roi-nj.com | @ROINJNews