Sullivan, Lozano on building business: People need to hear story of N.J.

Gov. Phil Murphy summed up the state’s eight-day economic trade mission trip to Germany and Israel in one phrase:

“There’s definitely nothing like when you show up,” he told ROI-NJ.

The theme was repeated throughout the 48 stops the governor’s team made. And, at each one, Tim Sullivan and Jose Lozano said their economic development organizations were able to follow the governor’s lead and close deals — or start them — with business leaders.

Sullivan, the CEO of the Economic Development Authority, and Lozano, the CEO of Choose New Jersey, spoke with ROI at the conclusion of the trip, summing up what the felt were some of the key points and accomplishments.

“One of the things I think is exciting is that the governor did such a great job on so many different occasions making the pitch and making the case for New Jersey,” Sullivan said.

“People need to hear that message. Those of us who live and work in New Jersey know a lot of this like the back of our hand. But if you’re not out there making the case, telling that story, you don’t have an opportunity for people to be considering you and thinking about you.

“Candidly, a lot of the feedback we heard back was, ‘Wow. We knew what we know a little bit, but now we know a lot more and we’re eager to follow up and have a follow-up conversation.’ So, I expect we’ll have some friends, some new friends coming to visit us in the next coming weeks and months to think about specific sites, specific locations and all those kinds of things.”

The following are more excerpts from their interview. (Listen to the complete ROI-NJ Podcast here.) The questions and answers were edited for space and clarity:

ROI-NJ: Let’s start off with a recap of the (second half) of the trip?

Jose Lozano: It was a whirlwind of a four days in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. … We had a variety of conversations and meetings with a couple of startup companies, companies that are entertaining a move to New Jersey, and that are seriously looking at New Jersey. We had several roundtables and several MOUs (memoranda of understanding).

ROI: Let’s talk about the roundtable with the Palestinians. I think the governor was very intrigued by sort of the restrictions that they face and the issues that they have to deal with. But what is it that New Jersey can actually get out of this? How can we actually work with them and get their interest in the state?

JL: They were fascinating conversations and, given all the barriers and challenges that they have, they seem to be doing quite great. And, so, given the amount of engineers and entrepreneurs that they have, I think is a good match for New Jersey in the East Coast and some of the other sectors that we’re really focusing on.

Tim Sullivan: I think it was an important reminder about the economic value of diversity, and having so many strong communities from all around the globe that have major presences in New Jersey, because there’s economic and cultural and social ties that make Jersey a natural place for partnerships with lots of different immigrant communities.

ROI: We we first arrived in Israel, there was the big MOU with the Israel Innovation Authority. That seems like one of the biggest gets?

TS: It was important, and it’s something we’re really excited about. Gov. Murphy has talked a lot about reclaiming New Jersey’s leadership position in the innovation economy.

And, certainly, one of the leaders in the innovation economy as we sit here in 2018 is the state of Israel and what they’re doing around things like cybersecurity and digital media and a whole variety of the subsectors of that technology, like financial technology.

Jose and his colleagues made the connection to the IAA, which is a really important organ of the Israeli state government. We’re really excited that EDA is going to have a formal relationship with them, because it sets us up and sort of makes New Jersey eligible sort of beyond their list, if you will, (to) have a partner, when they have companies that they’ve either invested in or (are) just aware of that want a presence in the U.S. We’re sort of on the friends of family list now with them for partnerships.

(It’s) potentially, a two-way bridge as well. If New Jersey companies are thinking that they might want an international presence, it creates a pathway and a framework for us to help make more connections for his New Jersey companies here in Israel.

ROI: There is a stigma for some places in the state when you are pitching New Jersey and the Northeast. But when you’re pitching New Jersey to other countries, they don’t necessarily have that background or that stigma. How is that different?

TS: People, appropriately, think about New Jersey as central to the beating heart of the American economy. That’s the northeast corridor from Washington up to Boston.

For us to be able to make the case and tell and remind people of the so much New Jersey has to offer not only in our cities, (but) in our suburban communities as well. … It was a really helpful reminder because that message I think resonated pretty strongly.

Read all of ROI-NJ’s coverage of Gov. Murphy’s trip: