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NJ Chamber of Commerce President Says Business Owners are Optimistic Despite Challenges

1-15-13

The latest New Jersey Chamber of Commerce survey found that Hurricane Sandy has decreased the amount of optimism in the business community. But Chamber President and CEO Thomas Bracken told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that despite challenges like Sandy, the fiscal cliff and health care uncertainty, business owners are optimistic about overcoming the challenges.

“I think in light of Sandy and in light of a lot of other uncertainties out there, I think the survey was very positive,” Bracken said. “People are optimistic about overcoming the adversity of Sandy, bringing their businesses back and to me there’s a lot of optimism in our new survey.”

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According to the survey, Bracken said 65 to 70 percent of the companies predicted increased revenues in the next year, 50 percent predicted increased profits in the next year and 50 percent talked about hiring new people.

“You don’t have those kinds of numbers if there’s not optimism out there,” Bracken said. “And this is in the face of these companies not only looking at recovery of Sandy, but you still have health care uncertainties out there from a cost standpoint, you still have the balance of the fiscal cliff items that are out there that are very disconcerting. All that uncertainty is not something the business community likes to have in place but it’s there and even in spite of that they have these numbers that to me just are extremely positive in light of the situation.”

Business owners also have faith in Gov. Chris Christie and his administration, according to the survey. Bracken said 83 percent gave the governor excellent ratings on Hurricane Sandy response and 70 percent said that since he took office in 2010, the economy has improved. “Very strong numbers and I think that confidence in the administration is what is keeping people positive,” he said.

New Jersey has a “tremendous infrastructure,” according to Bracken and he said people are optimistic that the leadership will work to improve the situation. “To me, that’s all I can equate it to because as you said, there are other things staring them in the face that are not that positive, in fact they’re negative. So there’s gotta be a reason they’re optimistic and to me it points to leadership,” he said. “Strong leadership always can trump any kind of bad statistics because leadership at the end of the day is what gets things done.”

Bracken said Congress’ vote on the Hurricane Sandy relief bill is “enormously crucial” to businesses in New Jersey. “That’s what is going to help businesses rebuild, that’s what’s going to help rebuild our infrastructure. Our infrastructure is diametrically tied to the economy. Our infrastructure is one of the strengths of New Jersey. That’s been severely damaged. That needs a lot of work. So that money is critical to the comeback,” he said. “And I think if it’s passed, again people will feel optimistic and that will buoy up the numbers we had in our survey.”

Even if the money doesn’t come through Congress, Bracken said he’s optimistic that “this state and this governor will find a way to get something done to get us back on track.”