Only positive vibes: Bracken, chamber feel new approach is helping business community’s relationship with lawmakers

Tom Bracken can gripe and moan with the best of them when it comes to business practices. He’s proven that for years. He also has learned an important lesson along the way: You get more legislators with honey than vinegar.

If there was a takeaway from the two-day ReNew Jersey Business Summit & Expo this week at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, that was it.

The event, which drew more than 900 — including Gov. Phil Murphy — was a success by all accounts. Key issues were discussed honestly and openly. Potential solutions were found, or at least were found to be worth more discussion.

And the New Jersey business networking community got its annual event back (more on the potential return of the Walk to Washington here). More than anything, the event-goers were left with a positive image of — and message for — New Jersey business.

Bracken, the CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“For too long, me, and many others have tried to criticize and complain our way to getting stuff done,” he said. “That has been proven not to work. And, for a long time, people have been saying, ‘Why don’t you be a little more positive?’

“I heard that a lot. And, being as thick-headed as I am, it took a while to sink in. But they were right.”

This event proved it, Bracken said.

“What we decided to do was say, ’Look, this state has a whole lot of good stuff — we need to promote that; we need to make sure people understand how great this place is,’” he said.

It’s not perfect.

“We still need to correct a few things, because we have even greater potential,” he said. “And we need to change the attitude, have people be proponents and cheerleaders for what the good things are, and then open up the dialogue to correcting the issues, which will only accelerate and exaggerate those positives.

“That was our intent. And I think we succeeded.”

The business community appears to be buying. An unofficial and unscientific poll on the first day of the event by ROI-NJ surprisingly found that more than half of those surveyed had a positive outlook on the question: Is New Jersey a business-friendly state? (Read about it here.)

Bracken said the event has been billed as a way to find a different path to move our economy and the business community forward.

Bracken thinks the positivity the chamber and others have been espousing will help the state do just that.

“We are having increasing dialogue and better dialogue with the Governor’s Office and the legislative leaders,” he said. “You combine that increasing dialogue with them seeing we are better cheerleaders supporting what they’re doing and then saying, ‘By the way, we have a few issues we’d like to talk about,’ is opening up more constructive discussion of those issues.

“This is is what we need to do to make the state even better and more competitive and more affordable.”

On that, Bracken is positive.