Op-Ed: It’s Time to Stop Ignoring the Needs of NJ’s Business Community

Tom Bracken | January 10, 2019 | Opinion
The governor wants a fairer economy in New Jersey but companies are bearing the heaviest burden of delivering it. Taxes and mandates have made the state unaffordable and uncompetitive

Credit: NJTV News
Tom Bracken, president and CEO of NJ Chamber of Commerce
New Jersey received a serious wake-up call last week.

Celgene, the Summit-based biosciences company, announced it has reached an agreement to be acquired by New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb in a blockbuster deal worth $74 billion.

Celgene’s management and its corporate board should be praised for guiding the company from virtually a zero-cash position in 1986 to becoming one of New Jersey’s premier corporations with $13 billion in revenue.

Celgene has been a credit to our state, having made extraordinary advances in biopharmaceutical research while earning the reputation as an excellent corporate citizen and a strong supporter of philanthropic causes.

While the sale is great news for Celgene and Bristol-Myers Squibb, it is bittersweet news for New Jersey. We are going to lose a prestigious company, as well as jobs and tax revenue.

The Celgene sale follows a spate of other recent disappointing news for New Jersey’s economy — Honeywell announced it is moving its headquarters (and hundreds of jobs) from Morris County to North Carolina; Amazon declined to award New Jersey its new headquarters site; and the just-released annual United Van Lines survey reported that more people are leaving New Jersey than any other state.

A wake-up call

One of the most obvious reasons for this trend of bad economic news is that New Jersey has one of the worst business climates in the nation — chiefly because the needs and the recommendations of the business community have been ignored. Businesses have been hit with tax increases and mandates, making it tougher and more expensive to do business in our state.

This past year, as Gov. Phil Murphy fulfilled his pledge of a fairer economy, more costly burdens fell on New Jersey companies, and more are being discussed for 2019. These taxes and mandates have made New Jersey unaffordable and uncompetitive.

Given this environment, it is not surprising that Celgene and Honeywell made the decisions they did. It also would not be surprising if out-of-state companies contemplating a move to New Jersey are rethinking their plans.

We can no longer afford to lose companies like Honeywell and Celgene. They create the jobs and generate the tax revenue that make Gov. Murphy’s fairer economy possible.

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce believes state leaders must urgently respond to the wake-up call represented by the Celgene announcement, and immediately begin working on the stronger economy Gov. Murphy pledged to create. Otherwise, the fairer economy he envisions cannot be sustained.

A good start to building a stronger economy would be to lower taxes on businesses, create incentive growth programs for small- and medium-sized companies, initiate projects to modernize our infrastructure, accelerate investment in education and training to ensure a highly qualified workforce and reduce the cost of government entities.

The business community stands ready to work together with state leaders and other organizations to ensure last week’s wake-up call becomes the catalyst to a resurgent New Jersey economy.