The program makers: 4 leaders of N.J.’s policies talk at ReNew summit on how they attract and retain businesses

Four individuals equally tasked with the state of economic development in New Jersey spoke Tuesday at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce‘s ReNew Jersey Business Summit & Expo at Harrah’s in Atlantic City.

Ted Zangari, a member of Sills Cummis & Gross, moderated a panel of the administration’s biggest team players, who have proven they can work in a seamless interplay between their offices as they provide opportunities for new businesses in the state and retain, expand and provide assistance to existing ones.

Eric Brophy, the incoming deputy chief of staff for economic growth; Wes Mathews, CEO and president, Choose New Jersey; Tim Sullivan, CEO, New Jersey Economic Development Authority; and Melanie Willoughby, executive director, New Jersey Business Action Center, spoke regarding New Jersey’s programs and gave a little insight as to what the state was doing and what’s in the works.

Mathews said the group works daily to attract investment and help job creation in the state. And the best ambassadors for the state are those in attendance at the summit this year — the satisfied business owners, Mathews said.

In order to recruit new businesses, Mathews said Choose works in two ways, marketing the state as an ideal place to grow or relocate a business to, and then outsourcing that marketing.

“At first, we develop our business development pipeline, and then we work with our other state governments,” Mathews said. “And, with all of the great talking points New Jersey has to offer, still the best ones include the incredible pipeline of talent that exists here, right in the heart of the greatest economic corridor in this hemisphere.”

Mathews said the state is always working to create a future for our economy and, as we all know, its voice oftentimes says it’s good to have opportunities like this.

And Brophy said the state doesn’t want to miss out on a good opportunity. When a pitch comes into the Governor’s Office, it is about figuring out how to promote the value of the state for the company.

“We want to offer these companies the opportunity to get in on any appropriate state program right away,” he said. “Having conversations early on about whether or not there is capital available for these companies, what the form of the capital is and what they are looking for as far as workforce and other factors are important conversations to have.”

Most often, those questions start with a call to the NJEDA.

Sullivan, as the head of the NJEDA, oversees and implements many programs, and it isn’t always about the money. The EDA’s toolkit, according to Sullivan, continues to grow.

“We have more people working in the private sector than we ever had before, we have more small businesses today than we had before the pandemic — these are good indicators about how the state’s opportunities and jobs are prospering. Yet, we do have challenges,”

“There’s a track record of what we can and should do, and you can basically put these things into two categories,” Sullivan said. “Make investments in our competitiveness (offshore wind, clean energy, life sciences, etc.) and address market gaps and/or market failures and issues that pop up.”

And market challenges do pop up.

Such as the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. The NJEDA reacted quickly this past weekend to provide emergency assistance to New Jersey-based companies impacted by the collapse of SVB.

The NJEDA also has shown on a number of different occasions how agile and supportive it is on many different efforts when circumstances arrive.

And, for those businesses looking for answers, it’s Willoughby’s New Jersey Business Action Center that gets the call.

Willoughby said her office connects businesses to government; after all, the government is the biggest user of business services.

For businesses, the BAC is the one-stop-center for answers.

“Whether you’re starting, growing, looking for a site. If you’re having trouble with a permit, if you get a notice from the Division of Taxation. Or, if you are trying to reach the state agency and you can’t get through. Call us, because we can help get through to them to get the answer for you,” Willoughby said.

The BAC will try to help businesses in the state — it’s there for every business, no matter the size.

“We sort of think of ourselves as therapists because of the fact that, when businesses call when they are in trouble or concerned, we try to help.”

Conversation Starter

Call the Business Action Center’s Business Helpline at 800-Jersey-7 (800-537-7397).