Trip to UAE, Bahrain aims to be 1st step of greater interaction

EDA’s Gross: Time at COP28 was spent building bridges to future connections to state

The biggest takeaway from his first three-day trip to Dubai was easy for Andrew Gross: There’s nothing like being there, he said.

Gross wasn’t necessarily talking about the United Arab Emirates, although he raved about the city scene (“Everywhere you looked, there were tall buildings and they were new,” he said) and the welcoming nature of the people (“It was never uncomfortable; I never felt stressed,” he said).

He was talking more about the connections he made at COP28, the global climate change summit that he attended earlier this month as the director of international innovation and partnerships for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Gross spent much of his time talking to representatives of some of the biggest sustainability companies around the globe about all that’s going on in New Jersey. He talked about the offshore wind industry, the push for electric vehicles and the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 2035. But more than that, Gross was putting a name to a face to a place.

“The conversations were very preliminary and very entry-level for now,” he said. “But there was a lot of intrigue and what’s going on in New Jersey and in the United States.

“I think that we’re doing a good job of getting on a level playing field with some of the big players in sustainability — elevating our position globally.”

It’s the latest example of the state reintroducing itself to the global market, which it did earlier this year when Gov. Phil Murphy led a more-than-50-person delegation to East Asia in October and Choose New Jersey CEO Wes Mathews traveled to India earlier in December.

“This is all part of our goal of opening up doors to new parts of the world,” he said. “My role at the EDA is to seek out global alliances and international partnerships that will help us innovate in New Jersey — and accelerate some of the work that we’re doing across the several fronts of our economy.”

Gross rattled off the talking points.

“It’s a discussion about our offshore wind aspirations, our commitment to sustainability and Gov. Murphy’s aspirations to get to 100% clean energy by 2035,” he said.

“It’s also an invitation, particularly to Emirati companies, to look at New Jersey for investment and partnership opportunities, which can help us accelerate our path to achieving those sustainability goals.”

How the conversations went depended on the knowledge of the other player. Plenty of folks at the event knew all about New Jersey — others knew very little.

That was expected, and was one of the reasons for the trip, which also include stops in Abu Dhabi (the capital of the UAE) and the country of Bahrain, Gross said.

“That’s a big part of why we’re out in the world, engaging with international delegations, with diplomats and with multinational corporations,” he said. “The world is a big place. And, while New Jersey is a very important state in sustainability, it’s hard for leaders in other countries to completely understand who we are and what we bring.”

It’s all about being there, Gross said.

“It was really great to talk about the competitive incentive programs at the EDA, and the different policies that are coming from the Governor’s Office,” he said. “International companies don’t always know all they need to know about New Jersey — so, it’s definitely important to take advantage of times when you can get in front of them.

“There is a lot of investment dollars coming out of the UAE and Bahrain; they are very important partners in the business space. Hopefully, these initial conversations will lead to more interaction in the future.”