by James Kirkos
Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce
There is much about New Jersey in which we can take pride. Among our countless merits is the state’s strong infrastructure — our highways and bustling shipping hubs, our utilities and energy concerns, and a challenged yet vital public transit system that is investing millions of dollars in its future. Our state should be, and can be, a competitive regional player in attracting world-class businesses and employers.
A closer look at this infrastructure reveals an array of challenges that have prevented New Jersey from realizing its potential. What is needed is a strong plan to address these challenges, and one cohesive forum in Trenton to advocate for the Garden State’s many business interests.
Opportunity New Jersey (ONJ), whose steering committee includes representation from numerous state chambers including our own, has established both — the plan, and the forum. Last month, ONJ announced its Plan for an Affordable New Jersey, and the establishment of the New Jersey Economic Development and Advisory Council. The need has never been greater.
We have a way to go to restore New Jersey’s viability as an inviting home for businesses, and an affordable place for its residents to live and work. We must have a transparent process for how transportation projects are prioritized, so that money from the Transportation Trust Fund flows in the most sensible directions. We must stimulate responsible investments in our water and power infrastructure. We must advocate for changes to New Jersey’s longstanding status as one of the nation’s top donor states, with zero return on investment for our federal tax dollars, and build continued momentum behind the Gateway Tunnel project and restoration of the century-old Portal Bridge.
The Gateway project alone will generate an estimated $9 billion in activity and create thousands of skilled jobs. As we have said before, this is not a local project — it is a much-needed regional link that reinforces New Jersey’s essential role as a conduit between Washington, D.C. and Boston. Even with its obstacles, our state is a crucial hub for commerce. There is much to admire. Imagine how much greater it can be.
ONJ’s Plan and newly formed Council are designed with one purpose in mind: to establish New Jersey as a regional leader in job growth and median wage growth. Governor Murphy and our legislative leadership have demonstrated their commitment to making the Garden State more competitive and affordable. But specific actions are needed — the implementation of recommendations and policies that put us, and keep us, on the right path.
Our state’s business interests must be heard in Trenton, in one consistent and amplified voice. The New Jersey Economic Development and Advisory Council has the potential to be that voice. Let’s make this work.
To learn more about the Plan for an Affordable New Jersey, and the formation of the New Jersey Economic Development and Advisory Council, please visit www.opportunitynj.org. Make sure to click Join Our Mailing List to stay updated on news and developments.