AT CHAMBER BREAKFAST, BUSINESS OWNERS TAKE UPBEAT TONE
By Melinda Caliendo/NJBIZ
October 25, 2011
The mood was decidedly optimistic at the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Breakfast this morning.
“People in the state of New Jersey are hoping things get better — the people here want this state to improve,” said Tom Bracken, president and CEO. “Hearing other people talk about what we heard today, which is optimistic, I think that will spur them on to look at expanding their companies, hiring some new people and I think that’s very positive. People feed on good news.”
The business owners and managers at the event, held at Edison’s Pines Manor, took part in an informal survey sponsored by the chamber and Sovereign Bank to take the economic pulse of the state, compared to national sentiment. Participants said they expected both the national and state economies will be in better shape 12 months from now, and 65 percent of chamber members who voted said New Jersey’s economy is moderately or greatly improved since Gov. Chris Christie took office.
When asked about their individual businesses, 70 percent of respondents in the room said they anticipate seeing improvement in their business over the next 12 months, while 55 percent indicated they are planning to increase hiring during the same period.
The crowd ranked property taxes as the top challenge facing the state, while survey administrator Lawrence Delp, market director for corporate banking with Sovereign Bank, noted that the crowd’s concern with crime and corruption in the state was decidedly less than other markets participating in similar surveys.
After the survey, a panel discussion and question and answer forum was held, which turned into a debate on the effectiveness of government incentives for business. Emil Solimine, president and CEO of Spiniello Cos., and Kevin Welsh, senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis, went back and forth over the virtues of incentives like the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program.
Welsh said incentives drove Panasonic Corp. to relocate its headquarters to Newark, rather than leaving the state altogether, but Solimine countered that the deal interfered with private enterprise “on the backs of the taxpayers and the government.”
“That’s what people want — to hear people talk about things with passion and commitment — and we got that from them,” Bracken said.
Other topics covered on the panel included actions Christie could take to further the state’s image as a business-friendly location. John Macrae, principal with J.H. Cohn’s consulting group, advised the governor “really stimulate confidence in everything he does.”
“If we’re talking magic wand, I think forced municipal mergers would be fabulous, and I think it would be great if our state’s regulatory agencies adopted federal standards as opposed to our own unique, and usually more strict, rules,” said Jeffrey Scheininger, president of Flexline/U.S. Brass & Copper Corp. and chamber chairman