By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce president Tom Bracken says what he and his business community colleagues have in mind is unprecedented: a two-day conference at the Borgata in Atlantic City bringing together business people and the legislature.
“It’s a a day when we’re going be very forward-looking. We’re not going to look backwards. We’re not going to blame people. We’re not going to finger point. We’re going to look for solutions because we all know that we need to increase the jobs in New Jersey, increase our economy,” said Bracken.
The four issues for discussion will be; the state’s tax structure, regulations and mandates, transportation and infrastructure and workforce readiness.
Those came out of a survey of 400 New Jersey executives. 40 organizations have signed on.
“We have business organizations, we have trade organizations, we have unions, we have the not-for-profit world, we have higher education institutions involved,” he said.
Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno was invited to represent the governor’s office, but has a scheduling conflict. So, according to Bracken, who sits on the NJTV board, it’s becoming a legislative affair.
“We have invited the entire legislature. We have a commitment from the leaders of the legislature, Senator Sweeney, Senator Kean, Assemblyman Prieto and Assemblyman Bramnick, they will be there on a panel,” Bracken said.
It’s not unusual for the four legislative leaders to appear in public together for a panel discussion. In fact, they do it every December at the annual conference of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. But organizers of this month’s summit in Atlantic City are convinced this will be different.
This type of dialogue happens all the time, but it’s in meetings where individuals are meeting with the legislators and they all are bringing their own interests to the table. And this is where we’re saying let’s bring all the business leaders together with the legislative leaders and do it as a group,” said Melanie Willoughby, Senior VP of Government Relations for the NJ Business and Industry Association.
“When the legislators hear things from leadership like myself, and Tom, and other,and the NJBIA, it’s one perspective. But when you’re seeing these people in the audience, when you’re hearing from them, the everyday problems they have with running a business and employing people, I think it makes a tremendously different impact,” said Bob Prunetti, President and CEO of MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce.
“What we’re trying to do is bring people together in one place to talk about the issues and if you can provide that face-to-face communication, you have a much better chance of getting things done,” said Bracken.
“I think under Tom’s leadership we’ve put together here the ability for us to put a broad coalition of business groups throughout the state together at one time to really reinforce to the legislature that it’s time to put politics aside about a whole bunch of issues,” said Meadowlands Regional Chamber President and CEO Jim Kirkos.
The call today was for action, not talk. So they will convene in Atlantic City September 17 and 18 and at least talk about it.