Withum, NJMEP, Morris and Somerset chambers create Manufacturing Cabinet

In an attempt to further build manufacturing in the state, accounting firm Withum has joined with the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and the Somerset County Business Partnership to create the Manufacturing Cabinet, an industry group to serve manufacturers and other supply chain companies.

Officials from the organizations say the Manufacturing Cabinet comes at a time when the manufacturing industry has seen a renaissance, spurred by job growth and favorable tax reform incentives.

Jim Hannan, practice leader of Withum’s manufacturing, distribution and logistics service group, said the time is right for such a group.

“Given the renewed national and regional focus on manufacturing as a stimulus for economic growth and expansion, Withum and its Manufacturing Cabinet co-founders established this group to advance the full spectrum of manufacturing in New Jersey and beyond, from logistics and distribution to the entire supply chain,” Hannan said. “As the sector continues its comeback, the Manufacturing Cabinet is bringing together some of business and industry’s greatest minds.”

John Kennedy, CEO of NJMEP, Paul Boudreau, president of Morris County Chamber of Commerce, and Michael Kerwin, CEO and president of Somerset County Business Partnership, also will be on the leadership team.

The Manufacturing Cabinet not only will advocate for the industry, but it will host thought leadership events, too.

Its first event will be June 6, when the group hosts “Driving Business through Sustainability” featuring Columbia University professor William “Bill” Russell, who also is a principal of a sustainability management consulting company called Transitioning to Green Inc.

The event will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. at The Madison Hotel in Morristown. (Advance registration is required and seating is limited. For more information, contact Withum’s Matt Basilo at mbasilo@withum.com.)

Manufacturing Cabinet officials say New Jersey has more than 10,500 manufacturing businesses and over 360,000 jobs — and that both numbers are growing.

Kennedy said the group can help drive a rebirth of manufacturing, taking advantage of the state’s highly educated workforce as well as the largest port facility on the East Coast and an extensive highway and rail network.

“This cabinet further enhances our mission of advocating for and improving the productivity and global competitiveness of small and medium-sized manufacturers and companies within the supply chain throughout New Jersey,” Kennedy said. “We look forward to working with these organizations where we can all provide solutions that will grow both their businesses and the New Jersey economy.”

The group said Morris and Somerset counties are in position to benefit because major interstates 78, 80, 95 and 287 feed the state’s manufacturing hotbeds.

In Morris and Somerset counties, the manufacturing base encompasses pharmaceuticals, metals, plastics, production technology and scientific instrumentation. This sector is also a leading contributor to the strength of office, industrial and residential real estate performance in both these counties.

Atlantic Health, Kindred break ground on rehab facility

Atlantic Health System and Kindred Healthcare broke ground Tuesday on the new Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, which will be built on the former Giralda Farms property in Madison.

The new institute, a two-story, 38-bed facility with all private rooms, will offer inpatient rehabilitation for patients who experience a loss of function from an injury or illness.

It also includes modern features such as a brain injury unit with private dining and therapy gym, large interdisciplinary gyms, a therapeutic courtyard with golf, basketball and varied surfaces, and a dialysis suite.

“Our focus is expanding accessibility to high-quality health care for our patients,” said Amy Perry, senior vice president, integrated care delivery, and CEO of Atlantic Health System’s Hospital Division. “The combination of Atlantic Health System and Kindred, in a modernized, convenient location, puts top-caliber rehabilitation services within the communities we serve.”

This is the first joint venture inpatient rehabilitation in the state, both organizations said Tuesday.

“We are pleased to work with the premier health care provider in New Jersey and break ground on this high-quality post-acute care institute that will greatly benefit the community,” said Jason Zachariah, president of Kindred Rehabilitation Services, a division of Kindred. “Atlantic Health System has been a great partner and we look forward to continuing to work with them on this quality-focused collaboration.”

The facility will take up about 46,000 square feet of land, a portion of the 40-acre Giralda Farms, and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2019.

Read more from ROI-NJ:

The heat is on: Gov. Murphy wants more wind power, cleaner energy — and BPU President Fiordaliso welcomes the pressure

Behind the scenes of politicians’ energy proclamations are agencies responsible for turning words into action.

So, when Gov. Phil Murphy called on New Jersey to pick up the pace of development of offshore wind farms — with the new administration setting a goal of 3,500 megawatts in offshore wind capacity, a higher projection than any other state in the region — it sent the Board of Public Utilities into overdrive.

The BPU is both a utility regulator and the de facto Office of Clean Energy. And there’s a new face leading this Legislature-designated promoter of a greener New Jersey.

Joe Fiordaliso, whom Murphy appointed as the BPU’s president at the beginning of the year, isn’t exactly new to the agency; he has served as a commissioner there since 2005, based on a nomination from former Gov. Richard Codey.

But the clean energy function of the BPU is certainly taking on a new importance under Murphy and his aggressive renewable energy agenda.

Fiordaliso is charged up about it. ROI-NJ talked to the busy BPU president about why that is.

ROI-NJ: Could you start off by talking about what’s going into implementing the governor’s directive on wind energy?

Joe Fiordaliso: We’re very excited about offshore wind. It’s taking New Jersey in a direction that we have not gone in up until now. It has been a long time coming for the state. We’re working closely with other state agencies on this. And we are facilitating the creation of an offshore wind strategic plan to get things into motion. We’re putting out requests for consultants and so on for that process.

We’re excited about it for a number of reasons. Obviously, the whole area off of the Atlantic Coast, particularly the northern part, is very conducive to wind-generated power; the farther south you go along the coast, the less effective it is. If we can harness it by reaching the goal Gov. Murphy committed to of 3,500 MW by 2030, it will supply enough energy for 20 percent of our energy users. So, it’s quite a journey we’re going on at the moment. We’re proceeding with this, but the process is going to take time.

The BPU was also directed to begin a rule-making process for the funding mechanism, or, as they call it, the OREC. We’ll be doing that, too. We recently announced a hearing for May 8 in order for us to solicit comments on the rule-making process.

ROI: Obviously, the impact on ratepayers is a top concern of many Jerseyans. Is there any early indication of what that impact might be?

JF: There’s a lot to be determined regarding that. But I will make an analogy here: I’ve been around the BPU for a good number of years and, when I started, the cost of solar was astronomical; what we’ve seen over the years is that cost — for development, the parts, for everything involved — has been coming down dramatically. Eventually, the same thing is going to happen with wind.

Initially, yes, it might be expensive. What those numbers are is something I have no way of knowing at this point, not until we get our strategic plan and funding mechanism in place. That’s when it will be determined. But we want to surpass California as the greenest state in the union. That’s our goal. And we’re poised to do that, because the governor has set a goal of 100 percent of our energy generated by green sources by 2050. People look at green energy initiatives as an expensive proposition — and it can be initially, there’s no doubt about it. But you also have to look at the economic development that comes along with it, as far as jobs and ancillary industries that feed into it. We see an awful lot of positives as far as the economics are concerned.

ROI: Right after Murphy was elected, we spoke with Danish offshore wind developer Ørsted about its excitement that projects could get underway in the state. The firm, which just this month opened an Atlantic City headquarters, talked about how Europe has really taken advantage of wind power. Are you looking to places like that when thinking about how to pull this off locally?

JF: Europe is light-years ahead of us in terms of wind energy. They have great resources, because I don’t know that you have stronger winds than those you have in the North Sea. They’re right there, and they’ve been tapping that resource. Denmark gets at least half of its generated energy from wind. So, we have a lot to learn from places like that. And we’re receptive to learning. If New Jersey is to be open for business for wind energy, we have to be also open-minded and consider those who have gone before us and perfected a technology we want to expand here.

ROI: One of Murphy’s first major energy-related actions was to sign an executive order directing the state to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap and trade emissions program that former Gov. Chris Christie had pulled out of. What’s happening with that now?

JF: The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency for, hopefully, restarting our participation in that program. We are in a supportive posture regarding that. They’re moving ahead, and we’re also moving ahead collectively, in getting our ducks in a row for that re-entry. I might add that it was a lot easier to withdraw than it is to re-enter. When the powers that be withdrew New Jersey, it was a lot simpler. But we think this is important to advancing a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and, again, it’s about mitigating the impacts of climate change. It’s an important pact for our region and one that, in my opinion, we never should’ve withdrawn from.

The BPU is happy to be involved and providing whatever support mechanisms we can to a process to re-enter this agreement — a process that has already begun. But it’s not a process that will conclude tomorrow. We don’t have a time frame for when it will happen. Some have indicated it might take up to two years, but I don’t know if that’s accurate.

ROI: What else is going on in the area of clean energy in the Garden State?

JF: The solar industry is still vibrant here. It slowed down over the past few years, but we’re re-energizing it. We used to be No. 2 behind California in terms of rankings and we’re now around No. 5. Today, we’re looking at about 90,000 or more solar installations, while back in 2000 we had only six. We’re continuing to move in the right direction. We’re promoting solar installations on landfills and brownfields, terrain that has few useful purposes otherwise.

Micro-grids are also becoming more in fashion. That evolved from Superstorm Sandy, during which some entities had micro-grids and were the only ones with power in the state. Along with that has come a lot more emphasis on energy efficiency. In general, we’re going to see a broadening of the clean energy portfolio under this governor. We’re looking at a lot of things. We’ve got all the potential for harnessing green energy as you can ask for.

ROI: How about nuclear? The state’s nuclear energy supply has had a couple of ups and downs, with the most recent news being the legislation passed last month to prevent the closure of the state’s threatened plants with new subsidies. Where do you stand on the fate of this energy source?

JF: While we don’t regulate nuclear power — no state agency does, as it’s a federal issue — in my personal opinion, it has to be part of the total equation. I’m concerned about the unfounded fear of nuclear power here in the United States. We’ve taken the steps necessary to make sure a Chernobyl is never going to happen. We’re very good as far as safety is concerned. Here in the state, 40 percent of energy generation is nuclear power. So, if you take that off the table, you have to make up 40 percent of our energy from somewhere else — losing out on an energy source with zero emissions.

ROI: Especially given that you’re going to be doing a lot of promoting green energy in this role, what is it that keeps you personally invested in this?

JF: One of the things that has prompted and encouraged many people to get into green energy — it’s also the most important thing, in my opinion — is the fact that we’re creating an environment that’s a lot better than the one my generation inherited. These efforts are going to, hopefully, reduce the potentially harmful impacts of climate change. I also believe we have a moral obligation to future obligations to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Read more from ROI-NJ:

Community Options: Believing in dignity for all


Community Options was founded in 1989 by Robert Stack, who is currently CEO and president.


Community Options’ mission is to develop housing and employment supports for persons with disabilities.


Over the next few years, we have identified five key objectives as part of our ongoing strategic plan: expand services, leverage technology, cultivate personnel, improve fiscal operations, and enhance marketing and development. We are confident that we will achieve the goals set forth by our Leadership Team by 2020.


Community Options is a progressive, national nonprofit organization that has been in operation for over 35 years. Community Options believes in the dignity of every person and in the freedom of all people to experience the highest degree of self-determination. Our focused efforts include developing residential housing, specialized programs for medically fragile adults, entrepreneurial businesses, employment supports and transitional education programs benefiting thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families.


Community Options recently celebrated the opening of our 500th home. We secured a donation to open our second Vaseful flower store, providing employment to people with disabilities. The flower store is expected to open in the fall. We’ve continue to expand our services with homes for people with disabilities that recently opened in Princeton, Marlton, Franklin and Willingboro. We have plans to open an additional six to 10 homes within the next year.


Community Options holds two annual fundraising events. The first is the Cupids Chase 5K race, held over Valentine’s Day weekend. In 2018, there were 38 races across the 11 states that Community Options operates in. Funds are raised through runners as well as corporate sponsorships. The second major fundraising event is the Annual Golf Classic, which took place this year at Jasna Polana in Princeton. Throughout the year, Community Options’ executive directors will also hold various fundraisers for their local offices. Many of these include partnering with small businesses in their local communities.


Community Options is supported by many local businesses in the areas that we serve. All of our offices are supported by a Community Options Business Advisory Council, or COBAC, which advises executive directors on local economic trends, establishes and maintains corporate and civic connections, and raises funds for local programs. COBAC members include representatives from Robert Wood Johnson, Staples, New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners, Yardville National Bank, Haldeman Ford, Pepper Hamilton, First Washington State Bank, Sovereign Bank, the National Association of Catering Executives and many other prominent lawyers, consultants and business leaders.

Board members

We are proud to have an active and engaged board of directors that include many prominent business and community leaders. Some of our board members include:

  • Philip Lian, chairman — Parcside Equity LLC
  • Alec Taylor — Matrix Development Group
  • Lori Grifa — partner at Archer Law and former DCA commissioner
  • Gail Gordon — attorney and wife of state Sen. Bob Gordon
  • James Spano — Spano Partners Holdings
  • Delia Donahue — partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP


As a national agency, Community Options seeks to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the community through person-centered and natural supports, and collaboration with community partners to increase accessibility to services. Community Options does not administer any large congregate programs, recognizing that people with the most severe disabilities need environments, equipment, clinical and staff support that are tailored to their very specific needs to enable them to live life to their fullest potential in the community.

Conversation Starter

Reach Svetlana Repic-Qira, regional vice president, Community Options, at: Svetlana.Repic-Qira@comop.org or at 973-905-4015.

In Brief

Serving: We are a national nonprofit organization providing services to people with disabilities. We are based in Princeton; however, we currently operate in 11 states: Arizona, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Key People: Robert Stack, CEO and president; David Sweeney, chief financial officer; Svetlana Repic-Qira, regional vice president; Brian Dion, regional vice president; Catherine Carroll, regional vice president

Life sciences in a microcosm: After 15-year quest, Tinton Falls firm gets FDA OK for heart attack warning device

Angel Medical Systems recently announced its FDA approval for the world’s first implantable heart monitor that can alert patients before they experience a heart attack.

The Tinton Falls-based company is now preparing for commercialization, after 15 years of working on the device.

That includes expanding office space, hiring to increase the current team of 15 and restarting manufacturing — all with the anticipation of having the device ready to be used by patients in early 2019.

“We were at one point a company of over 100 people, and we had to reduce that in order to keep our funding adequate until we got through the approval process,” Chief Operating Officer David Keenan said. “In the long run, I can see us eventually becoming a company of that size again.”

And the company is preparing to expand into an office in Eatontown.

But launching in the life sciences space can be tricky in today’s climate.

Keenan is cognizant of the pricing pressure nationally, as well as the need to operate the business.

“Pricing always has some impact on your ability to grow,” he said. “We have been working with reimbursement organizations like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and private payors to try to get a sense of what is possible. Obviously, until we get reimbursed, you aren’t 100 percent sure what your growth rate will be.”

But Angel Medical is confident it will be reimbursed enough to allow it to expand, he said.

The company represents a microcosm of what life sciences companies endure in the search for newer treatments and technology.

The company has spent 15 years and millions of dollars to get the device to approval — which falls in line with the decade-long storyline for drugs.

How the company advances is going to require adaptive strategies, since the world the device was created for — in 2002 — has changed significantly.

The device, the AngelMed Guardian System, operates with a pager.

“When we started development, you have to realize, it was before smart watches existed,” Keenan said. “We decided a pager, which was known and trusted technology, would be the best approach.”

The implant will detect signs of a pending heart attack and vibrate in a pattern that the patient will be trained to recognize. The patient can then call 911, helping quicken the response time and reduce damage to the heart.

In addition, patients can carry a pager, which will receive a message from the device.

The pager can beep in a specific pattern that matches the implant’s vibration pattern, and has lights that indicate what kind of attack the patient is having.

Though the product will be sold in its current format, future versions are likely to adapt to newer personal technology such as wearables, Keenan said.

Since 2002, the company raised $60 million in equity, received $15 million in grants and had some level of debt financing since 2012, which is in the tens of millions, Keenan said.

In that time, there was also a small amount of revenue from licensing the device’s algorithm to larger companies.

That generated $50 million from the licensing and $1 million from sales in Brazil, Keenan said.

“It was a long, complicated process, but it worked out for the best,” he said.

Gateway Project, in effort to build support, hires Sigmund as chief of public outreach

The Gateway Program Development Corp. has named a chief of public outreach, who will oversee efforts to build public support for the Gateway infrastructure plans.

Stephen Sigmund, a public affairs consultant and senior adviser to Global Strategy Group, has more than 25 years of experience in public affairs and policy work in the New Jersey and New York region. In addition to building support for Gateway — most noted for its efforts to build a rail tunnel under the Hudson River — he will communicate developments to external partners and serve as chief public spokesman for the program.

“The Gateway Development Corp. trustees welcome Steve to the team,” Chairman Steven Cohen said in a prepared statement. “Steve’s deep knowledge of the region will help drive a forward-looking message that builds on successful efforts to highlight the urgency and local, regional and national importance of advancing the Gateway Program.”

Sigmund has also served as chief of public and government affairs for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and as executive director of the Global Gateway Alliance. He has also served in communications roles for the New York City Council and New Jersey Governor’s Office.

“We applaud the Gateway Development Corp.’s decision to hire Steve Sigmund to lead public outreach on this project,” Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, said in a statement. “Steve brings great expertise and regional perspective to the nation’s most important infrastructure investment. His many successful experiences steering projects through complex political landscapes at the Port Authority, New York City Council and New Jersey Governor’s Office will serve the Gateway Development Corp. well as they move from planning to implementation.”

Craig Schulz will continue in his media relations role for Gateway, and Sigmund will continue in his Global Strategy Group role, Gateway said.

Elberon leases remaining space at warehouse acquisition

Elberon Development Group has signed two tenants for its warehouse at 919 Fairmount Ave. in Elizabeth, the commercial real estate firm said Tuesday.

The 100-year-old, family-owned firm said in a news release that ProFoot and McGinley Transportation Systems Inc. signed for the 115,000-square-foot property, which is now 100 percent leased.

ProFoot signed for 64,500 square feet, bringing 55 jobs from its 40,000-square-foot location in Brooklyn. The foot care company received a Grow New Jersey incentive to make the move, which will occur when the lease begins later this year.

Lee & Associates’ Rick Marchisio, Crista Bartolomeo and Drew Maffey represented the tenant in the transaction, Elberon said.

McGinley signed for 40,500 square feet and will move from 1000 Jefferson Ave. late in the year. The provider of logistics and furniture installation services moved across town to take advantage of proximity to its client base in New York City.

Bussel Realty Corp.’s Jordan Metz represented the tenant in the transaction.

The remaining 10,000 square feet in the building is leased to the former owner, Hayward Industries. Elberon bought the property in fall 2017 and is launching an extensive capital improvement program in advance of the new leases.

“I think it’s fair to say that our plans to fully modernize the property resulted in a successful leasing campaign,” Elberon Vice President Terry Armstrong said in a prepared statement. “This property, and these tenants, are a terrific addition to our growing portfolio.”

SBA-backed lending soars in first half of fiscal 2018

Halfway through the fiscal year, the state’s small businesses are on a pace for $900 million in Small Business Administration-backed loans, the SBA’s New Jersey district office said Tuesday.

Loan approvals are up 33 percent over the first half of fiscal 2017, while dollars loaned are up 23 percent, the SBA added.

District Director Alfred Titone said in a news release that his office has approved 1,149 loans for a total of $456 million during the first half of fiscal 2018, covering Oct. 1, 2017, through March 31. That compares with 862 loans and $373 million during the year-ago period.

“SBA loan approvals and dollars are trending upward, a great indicator that the economy is growing and moving in a positive direction,” Titone said in a prepared statement. “The bottom line is that the SBA is providing more loans and dollars to New Jersey small business owners than we did a year ago.”

Of the loans in the first six months of fiscal 2018, 51 percent went to existing businesses, while 49 percent went to new businesses. Titone said that 49 percent mark was significantly higher than the 32 percent average for small business loans statewide.

“When small businesses in 19 of the 21 counties in the state are seeing more loans than they did last year, then that is good news for New Jersey,” he said. “These loans have helped to create 4,030 jobs and have helped to retain another 4,619 jobs here in New Jersey. From where I sit, those loans have a far-reaching and significant economic impact on the state’s economy.”

Titone noted that five counties showed significant increases in number of loans thus far in fiscal 2018:

  1. Hunterdon County, up 128 percent;
  2. Warren County, up 88 percent;
  3. Camden County, up 82 percent;
  4. Mercer County, up 79 percent;
  5. Ocean County, up 70 percent.

The Top 5 SBA lenders for the time period were:

  1. TD Bank, 421 loans for $41 million;
  2. Wells Fargo, 44 loans for $21 million;
  3. M&T Bank, 44 loans for $8.4 million;
  4. JPMorgan Chase, 44 loans for $7.4 million;
  5. Santander Bank, 36 loans for $4.5 million.

Total loans by county were:

  • Atlantic County, 23 loans for $10.75 million;
  • Bergen County, 181 loans for $48.32 million;
  • Burlington County, 53 loans for $20.28 million;
  • Camden County, 84 loans for $31.21 million;
  • Cape May County, 33 loans for $31.64 million;
  • Cumberland County, 6 loans for $1.12 million;
  • Essex County, 79 loans for $36.54 million;
  • Gloucester County, 30 loans for $9.04 million;
  • Hudson County, 62 loans for $22.38 million;
  • Hunterdon County, 16 loans for $3.86 million;
  • Mercer County, 59 loans for $14.64 million;
  • Middlesex County, 84 loans for $54.12 million;
  • Monmouth County, 99 loans for $45.69 million;
  • Morris County, 79 loans for $33.44 million;
  • Ocean County, 78 loans for $28.02 million;
  • Passaic County, 61 loans for $22.33 million;
  • Salem County, 3 loans for $165,000;
  • Somerset County, 38 loans for $6.63 million;
  • Sussex County, 8 loans for $4.21 million;
  • Union County, 58 loans for $25.34 million;
  • Warren County, 15 loans for $6.54 million.

Only Atlantic County saw a lower number of loans from the year-ago period, while Cumberland County had the same total. (Dollar values varied widely year to year.)

Millionaire’s tax is big topic of discussion at budget hearings

Will a millionaire’s tax actually cause millionaires to flee the state?

It’s not clear, based on the Assembly budget hearing Monday.

The state ranks second in the nation for millionaires per capita — about 1 in 12 households are millionaires — according to a February report by Phoenix Marketing International.  And that number appears to be growing.

The Office of Legislative Services said there were 20,000 millionaires in the state in 2015 — the latest numbers the office has — and 19,000 out-of-state filers who all pay the 8.97 percent rate for income over $500,000.

That tax rate, from Gov. Jim McGreevey’s administration, is what Gov. Phil Murphy anticipates increasing.

David Drescher, senior financial analyst for the Office of Legislative Services, said millionaires and out-of-state filers are projected to grow this fiscal year.

“We’re projecting growth in those categories, and that is based on historical patterns,” he said. “We have seen over the past decade a growth of over 100 percent in the taxpayers with over $1 million. Total taxpayer population grew 11 or 12 percent (in that time).”

Extrapolating on 2015 numbers, that means at least 25,000 millionaire residents and more than 20,000 non-resident filers at the 8.97 percent rate.

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees) said research has shown the increase in taxes does not result in millionaires leaving the state. Only 0.3 percent will leave based on a tax increase, he said.

Greenwald, who has long said fixing the property tax issue is his main concern, said he hopes this administration, unlike previous ones, will look at comprehensive reform.

He also noted that the state has not done a study of which income levels of people have left the state to neighboring Pennsylvania and New York.

“It feels like we’re always trying to patch this together with duct tape and glue,” Greenwald said. “There is not an appetite for more taxes in the state of New Jersey … it doesn’t matter who you tax.”

He asked State Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio to find out those statistics and come up with a budget proposal that accounts for the anticipated outmigration of residents for the upcoming year.

The bad news for the state is that the “April Surprise” — extra revenue that often comes during tax time — did not come this year.

The state is now left with just over a month to decide how it will make up a $2 billion budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.

There were other factors discussed that have not moved the needle for the state, playing into the need for new revenue streams:

  • The anticipated windfall from legalized sports betting — a conservative $13 million in tax revenue from an anticipated Year One total revenue of $124 million for the industry.
  • The minor reduction in the sales tax last year, given in exchange for the gas tax, has not had a major impact on collections. This is important to keep in mind as an increase is being sought by the Murphy administration.
  • The gas tax has been a failure in producing enough revenues. A combination of more energy efficient cars and electric vehicles are partly to blame, according to state officials. In fact, the tax will need to be increased by 2 cents to make up the $100 million shortfall.

In recent weeks, legislators have indicated greater willingness to look at marijuana legalization and the millionaire’s tax, and both the Legislature and administration are counting on new revenue rather than cutting spending.

“It’s time to have a serious discussion,” Muoio said. “There is nowhere else to kick the proverbial can.”

Going to market: Mercer is just latest part of N.J. to use professionals to promote tourism, business

Mercer County is traveling down the now well-trodden path of pairing up with a marketing firm to bring more tourists, as well as business events, to the region.

The 17-municipality Princeton-Mercer Convention and Visitors Bureau coalition is among the 565 municipalities in New Jersey that are increasingly deciding that word of mouth doesn’t beat a partner in the marketing industry today. The firm it’s partnering with on a new digital advertising initiative, Creative Marketing Alliance, is based in the Princeton area as well.

“What you have today is a lot of opportunities like this, because, quite honestly, not too many people realize there’s a convention and visitors bureau here,” Jeffrey Barnhart, CEO and president of the firm, said. “And there are many of the bureaus throughout the state also interested in promoting their respective areas.”

These municipalities are heavily investing in self-promotion — and doing it at a time that marketing professionals see as ideal — to support local tourism industries that might be a bigger deal to those areas than one would expect.

For instance, Peter Crowley, CEO and president of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the region his chamber and its bureau partner serve welcomes a sizable 2.5 million visitors yearly.

“Across the state, tourism is actually the seventh-largest industry,” Crowley said. “And in our region, it’s in the Top 4.”

Crowley said the region has been achieving record growth in its travel and tourism economy. Tourism employment is at a high, as is the dollars generated by visitors each year.

“And it all serves as economic development for us,” he said. “So, we want to continue to drive that in this Central Jersey region.”

That marketing professionals understand the current moment to be perfect for these campaigns might sound self-serving; but as marketing and media company executive David Fink explained, it’s widely accepted that there’s a trending interest in “staycations,” or staying local for vacations.

“It’s a real trend, and it’s especially relevant in New Jersey, because people have known it has a lot to offer,” said Fink, who serves as president and chief communications officer at DavidHenry, a marketing agency in Westfield. “Between Uber, Airbnb and other online resources, it’s easier to find and experience the state’s hidden gems.”

Involved in this is an effort to attract the rising buying power of millennials. Fink said that millennials are more regularly today at the stage of having young kids that they’re looking to do weekend activities with outside the state’s urban corridors.

Kate Stevens, managing director for the Princeton-Mercer Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that’s an obvious demographic for them.

“We’re really well-equipped for those day-trippers who want to do something family-oriented,” Stevens said. “We have beautiful parks, history and art that we want to highlight to draw families into the area.”

Stevens said the lead-up to her organization’s outreach initiative, which is intended to attract corporate attention for business conventions and events as much as it’s bringing in tourists, was a lot of research with other organizations leading travel marketing in the tri-state area. And not all of them share the same characteristics of Central Jersey, either.

“The areas looking into this might have some totally unique aspects, but, underneath it all, they will have the same few things they want to accomplish,” Fink said.

What does differ — greatly — is the marketing options available to these municipalities.

Aside from having more than 1,600 marketing and advertising agencies in the state to choose from, the internet and the proliferation of social media networks has added countless options to how an organization can get a message out.

“It was once the case that you had a finite number of mediums; now, especially with finite marketing dollars, and have to be selective among a huge choice of mediums,” Fink said.

Marketers and the organizations they partner with particularly have to deal with the problem of limited funds when working in New Jersey, as there is no statewide tax dedicated to the promotion of convention facilities or tourist attractions — as some neighboring states have.

“Therefore, we don’t have a lot of funds available for promotion here,” Barnhart said. “We have to be more strategic in creating awareness with what is available.”

Barnhart said that can make things tricky for marketing campaigns.

“But we enjoy the chance to get people excited about coming here,” he said.

Conversation Starter

To reach Jeffrey Barnhart of Creative Marketing Alliance, contact Nicole Pyhel at: npyhel@cmasolutions.com or 609-439-9324.