Why I still love New Jersey

I add a lot of news reports to my twitter account highlighting the struggle that New Jersey is having with both general economic growth and the related struggle with it’s corporate real estate market. It seems that every time I open the paper I see another story about the lackluster jobs market in the state, the high operational costs, or the lack of a business friendly environment. It can be demoralizing for someone that makes their living in part based on the number of employed people in the state.

But as I do work around the country, there are a number of things that jump out at me. And these things give me hope that the future of New Jersey will be stronger than the present. Just a few items to note:

While the United States may take pride in their work ethic, the intensity drops once you leave the tri-state area. There is a much stricter adherence to the 9-5 workday and people are much less likely to respond after hours.
The work force is well educated. I’m not talking about college degrees. I’m talking about general business smarts.

From administrative staff to the C-suite, everybody understands basic business principals. The learning curve for discussions such as amortization schedules, deal terms, etc is much flatter, if necessary at all.

There is no “good old boy network.” Of course, business gets done at the golf course, but if you have value to add, you aren’t being dismissed because you can’t trace your lineage back in the region. If you have a good idea that can help grow a business, it doesn’t matter whether you are from Atlanta or China. There’s an opportunity to do business in New Jersey.

I hear a lot about “the cost of doing business” in the state. This leaves me scratching my head since New York City clearly has a higher operating costs than New Jersey. Real estate costs more, there are higher taxes, and regulations can be just as onerous. But the city seems to be doing just fine.

I can’t help but wonder how much of New Jersey’s challenges are self-inflicted due to cynicism and a lack of community pride. Residents frequently feel the need to apologize on behalf of the state rather than owning all of the great things that exist here.

Are there challenges to overcome? Of course! But saying “Last one to leave, turn out the lights” isn’t fixing anything.

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