New report shows NJ industry innovation is falling behind in the region

Leah Mishkin, Correspondent | January 11, 2019

The New Jersey Business and Industry Association released a report Friday called “Indicators of Innovation.” It looks at where the Garden State ranks in comparison with six other states in the region when it comes to innovation. The takeaway: we’re struggling to compete.

“We were the leaders in innovation for decades, and somehow we lost a little stride,” said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the NJBIA. “We have a nationally accredited K-12 educational system here in New Jersey. The fact that we are the number one [in outmigration] of first-time college graduates is frightening.”

That’s one of the 12 indicators in this report – including venture capital investment, levels of funding and startup density, among others.

“Generally speaking, New Jersey falls in the middle of the pack; however, where other states tend to do better, New Jersey tends to do worse,” said Nicole Sandelier, policy analyst at the NJBIA.

Rutgers Business School Professor Lyneir Richardson gives New Jersey a “B.”

“The private sector, there needs to be more capital in venture capital and angel investing, investing in innovation, investing in entrepreneurs,” Richardson said.

The report says New Jersey companies received $781 million in investment capital in 2017, according to the National Venture Capital Association. That same year, New York and Massachusetts received billions.

The report gives the state high marks for the number of new entrepreneurs: 340 for every 100,000 people in the state in 2017.

“To get those companies to grow, it’s all about capital, R&D, SBIR, university assistance. We have an entrepreneurial community — we’ve got to support it,” Richardson said.

Still, the report says the cost of doing business here is too high, making it difficult to get a company started and to keep it going. New Jersey is ranked at the bottom of seven states in the region.

“As it relates to tax policy, sales tax, property tax, income tax, and seeing that in such a clear and concise way, I think is eye-opening,” said Richardson.

Gov. Phil Murphy has made the “innovation economy” a recurring theme of his administration.

“Among the Governor’s top priorities is to continue to modernize our regulatory environment to support New Jersey’s innovation economy, and his Jobs and Economic Opportunity Council and Chief Innovation Officer will advance these efforts throughout 2019,” said a spokesperson from the governor’s office.

Siekerka said this is a good first step. Dealing with bigger issues like fully funding the state pension, controlling property taxes and improving the state’s infrastructure are equally as important.