For new head of HealthCare Institute, retention is as important as attraction when it comes to industry growth in state

Buteas is all about helping N.J. grow biopharma and medical technology sectors, but stresses need to acknowledge, appreciate global companies already here

Whether she’s at the New Jersey pavilion or walking the floor at this week’s BIO International Conference in San Diego, Chrissy Buteas — the new CEO of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey — is eager to offer up all the talking points about the state.

Great education system. Great workforce. Great location. And an unprecedented history in the biopharmaceutical and medical technology sectors.

Throw in a renewed commitment to innovation and some world-class landing spots — whether it be the HELIX, the NEST and any of the other half-dozen or so Centers of Excellence — and it’s easy to make the case for the state to any of the hundreds of international companies that will be at the event.

Big shoes to fill

Chrissy Buteas, the new CEO of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, had high praise for her predecessor, the now-retired Dean Paranicas.

“Big shoes to fill; titan of the industry,” she said. “And, before him, another titan of the industry in the late Congressman Bob Franks. Two true gentlemen and huge advocates of the industry.

“I see my role as continuing the great work that they have done already, trying to continue and amplify it in this new day, trying to bring new energy, along with the team.”

But, as a veteran lobbyist, Buteas is well-versed in the subtleties of the attraction effort — and knows having companies pick New Jersey over other top-notch locations such as Boston, the research triangle in North Carolina and Silicon Valley is no sure thing.

That’s why Buteas, who started at HINJ in April, said she is just as concerned with the retention side of the business development equation, pointing to the 25 major companies that HINJ represents.

Iconic global companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, BD, Stryker and so many others should not be forgotten by state officials. And they certainly shouldn’t go unappreciated.

“Our industry employs more than 80,000 people and supports, at a minimum, another 369,000 jobs around the state through the purchase of more than $6.6 billion worth of goods and services through thousands of contracts with local New Jersey suppliers and providers in our supply chain,” she said.

This translates into the life sciences industry being responsible for generating 16%-20% of the state’s GDP, Buteas added

“We are the leading advocates for New Jersey’s biopharmaceutical and medical technology companies — we want to make sure that New Jersey doesn’t forget that we are the home of these companies,” she said.

“So, when our policymakers are talking about attracting businesses to the state of New Jersey, we want them to keep in mind that we have a significant presence of really renowned companies that have called New Jersey home for over 100 years. They’re right here in New Jersey, saving patients’ lives every day — and have been for over a century.”

The biggest complaint, as always, is the tax structure.

“I don’t think we need to be at the extreme end on the tax side,” she said. “That will have a challenging impact for our largest employers.

“We don’t need to have the highest Corporate Business Tax in the nation. It can be somewhere in the middle, and still be able to sustain our economy. That’s where I think we need to have that balance.”

Buteas said finding that balance would help everyone — not just the big businesses she represents.

“I’ve talked about this extensively with the business community — how do we make New Jersey an attractive place to do business while also maintaining the great school systems and communities we have?” she said.

“So, if policymakers are making a new policy and it impacts the pharmaceutical and medical technology industry, they need to know it’s going to have a downward impact on small business. We just want them to keep that in mind when they’re talking tax policy, environmental policy and labor policy.”

Buteas was just as quick to acknowledge the push for innovation, which is driving more public-private partnerships — and a push to work more collaboratively with education, whether it be four-year or two-year schools or vocational schools.

Buteas, who sits on the board of trustees of Middlesex College, has a firsthand look.

“I see that increasing moving forward,” she said. “There are jobs that need to be filled — and there is direct curriculum-based learning and experiential learning taking place so that we’re getting the workforce trained for the specific jobs that are actually needed in health care. That can’t happen soon enough.”

All of these programs, however, cannot come without recognition of the global companies that are utilizing them, Buteas said.

“There are a lot of companies that are proud to call New Jersey home and are committed to New Jersey,” she said. “When these companies introduce themselves, and proudly say they are based in New Jersey, that’s really great. And it makes me proud to represent them. We don’t want to make it any more difficult for them to say that.

“We should encourage them to want to invest more here, so, when they’re thinking about, ‘I want to start a new manufacturing facility,’ or ‘I want to expand my corporate headquarters,’ and they’re thinking about North Carolina, California and Massachusetts, we literally want them to Choose New Jersey.”

Buteas, as well as a host of other representatives of the state, including Choose New Jersey, BioNJ and numerous members of the administration and higher education community, will be pitching the state all week.

The potential payoff is high, Buteas said.

“These are real-life decisions that worldwide companies are making every day,” she said. “These are not hypotheticals.

“Choose New Jersey. Literally, choose New Jersey. Let’s make it easy for them.”