Coming together on new economic incentive program must be priority

Michele Siekerka.

It has been said that opportunity is everywhere.

For New Jersey, this is a blessing and a curse. Certainly, our prime location, high-ranking K-12 education system, competitive postsecondary institutions and skilled workforce should make us a favorable destination for opportunity.

But, because of our exorbitant taxes, the ever-looming threat of more tax increases, the high cost of doing business and a challenging business climate, suitors are often forced to look elsewhere.

New Jersey is now in its 13th week without a tax incentive program, which is a fundamental tool in most states’ economic development strategies. There also continue to be delays in the awarding of already approved 2018 tax credits. These are two facts that send one simple message to prospective employers: New Jersey is not open for business.

We are encouraged that Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature have been in discussions to create the next version of the incentive. Murphy has put forth a tax incentive plan with a focus on increasing venture capital investment and the Legislature has been working on a new version of the Grow New Jersey program that addresses some of the concerns raised about the expired program, as well.

However, with each passing day that New Jersey does not have a tax incentive program, we put future job creation, economic development and prosperity at risk.

It bears repeating — especially as it is often overlooked by critics of the program — that New Jersey’s high tax structure and poor business climate are why these incentives are essential to level the playing field against our regional competitors. Entrepreneurs and business owners want to give themselves the best chance to succeed, to soar above their bottom line.

It is imperative that our policymakers prioritize working together now to put together a strong, responsible and effective tax incentive program to give New Jersey a chance to compete. The New Jersey Business & Industry Association continues to stand ready to work with them to ensure that opportunity once again knocks in New Jersey.

Michele Siekerka is CEO and president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.