Business meet-up: Chamber achieves first goal of its business summit

After the last of the six panels was over, and just before he announced the ReNew Jersey Business Summit would return next year, N.J. State Chamber CEO Tom Bracken got the moment he needed to ensure that the event was a success.

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald told Bracken he was committing to meeting with him on a regular basis.

It’s the first step – but a vital part of Bracken’s push to push an economic agenda with the Legislature and the governor during a window of opportunity that may not be open for long.

“The state is arguably in one of the best fiscal positions it’s ever been in, based on bond ratings going up and revenues going up,” he said. “We’re operating from a position of strength right now.

“The time to invest is when you’re strong, so, if we are as strong as the governor says we are, it is time to use that money to invest, not to sit on it and wait for a rainy day – because we’re in a rainy day right now.”

The two-day event, which drew more than 600 business leaders, was aimed at coming up with realistic requests and recommendations for state officials (see the list here) on all things related to the business climate.

From its announcement, Bracken said his biggest hope is the summit could be used as a framework for future conversations.

“The main goal going forward was to get a commitment for regular meetings with the administration and the legislature to talk about the issues, get them on the table,” he said. “You can’t solve these issues, we can’t move forward, unless we have discussions – and the only way to have discussions is to formalize the commitment on both sides.”

Greenwald is a start.

Bracken is hoping to get more meetings on the calendar, including some with Gov. Phil Murphy and his top economic officials. Bracken is confident there is plenty to talk about.

“I think what we learned during the summit was just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There’s a lot of benefit to doing what we’re talking about. We need to be very persistent, not let up and not be afraid of any kind of pushback we get.

“We need to be very aggressive here, because there’s a lot we can do, especially when the state has the money it does to invest in some of these projects.”

That aggressive approach will continue.

If there was one disappointment to the event, Bracken said it was this: A number of elected officials who registered, did not attend.

Not to worry. Bracken and the chamber have a list and said they’ll be checking it twice – and then making appointments.

“The message we have to give them is, ‘You signed up for something that you thought was important and then you missed the opportunity.’

“So, we’re going to reconvene with them in a different way to tell them what happened.”

It’s all part of the push, Bracken said.

“We need to educate the legislators more on what we’re trying to do and the benefit to doing it,” he said. “That’s why we want to have these conversations on an ongoing basis.

“It’s an education process. And it’s very obvious that over the last couple of years that the elected officials don’t really understand exactly what our needs and our motives are. We have to tell them how it’s going to benefit everybody in the state.”