Business Report Plus: State’s infrastructure in the spotlight

BY Rhonda Schaffler, Correspondent |
  • President Trump unveils plan for infrastructure upgrades
  • Gov. Murphy announces short-term relief for NJ Transit riders
  • Fate of the Gateway Project still up in the air
  • SBA releases statistics regarding minority-owned businesses
  • Gaming revenue numbers released
  • Campbell’s Soup releases earnings
  • EDA confirms new leadership
  • Assemblyman Prieto gets a new job

The business of getting from here to there highlighted the week, between President Donald Trump’s infrastructure proposal and Gov. Phil Murphy’s push to help NJ Transit commuters.

The governor promised immediate relief for harried commuters, who find themselves jammed into overcrowded train cars on their way to work. As Brenda Flanagan reported, the governor ordered that additional train cars be put into service to ease the crunch.

If you don’t take mass transit, you know that driving to work brings its own set of challenges, between dodging traffic and avoiding potholes. But what if there was a massive multi-billion dollar plan to improve the nation’s roads and bridges? Turns out, there now is, but President Trump’s recently unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan is facing criticism. The proposal includes just $200 billion in direct federal spending, with state and local governments expected to pick up some of the tab.

This comes as politicians in New Jersey and New York remain frustrated over the lack of a federal funding commitment for the Gateway Tunnel Project. In an annual funding report the Federal Transit Administration submitted to Congress, the Gateway Project received a low rating, according to Politico. Those ratings are used to prioritize federal spending.

“In case it wasn’t clear before, President Trump on Friday tried to land another death blow to Gateway by having his Federal Transit Administration vindictively and inexplicably downgrade the project in order to cut off critical federal funding,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

But one federal agency has increased its funding for New Jersey’s businesses. The Small Business Administration says loan approvals during the first four months of the current fiscal year have risen 154 percent for black-owned businesses in the state.

“Over the first four months of this year, SBA loans helped to create 91 new jobs and retain another 89 jobs for black-owned businesses,” said Al Titone, SBA New Jersey district director. “Some of these 33 loans helped to fund child care centers, a medical laboratory, restaurants, car washes and residential contractors.”

The SBA office in New Jersey is on track to approve 132 loans for black owned businesses in 2018, compared to 85 loans last year. The total dollar amount of the loans has also increased.

A possible increase in the minimum wage in New Jersey was a topic of discussion at this week’s meeting of the Manufacturing Caucus. As Leah Mishkin reported, manufacturers also expressed concern over finding skilled worker.

Atlantic City was a bit down on its luck to start the year. The State Division of Gaming Enforcement reported the city’s seven casinos won just over $184 million in January, which represents a decline of 9.9 percent from January 2017. Six casinos reported revenue drops, led by Caesar’s, with a 23 percent decline. Only the Golden Nugget posted a revenue increase for the month of January. The Golden Nugget also recently reported strong results for internet gambling.

Camden-based Campbell’s Soup had another tough quarter. The company reported a 2 percent drop in organic net sales in its fiscal second quarter. It blamed the drop on the fact that one of its key customers, Walmart, placed fewer orders for canned soups.

There were some executive changes around the state this week. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority voted to approve Tim Sullivan as its new CEO, after Murphy recommended him for the position. Sullivan worked in development positions for the state of Connecticut and New York City. He comes on board as New Jersey is conducting an audit of EDA tax incentives, which Murphy has said are less effective than tax incentives offered by other states.

Former Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is leaving the state Legislature to become CEO and president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. He takes the helm starting on Feb. 26.

Meantime, the CEO of Short Hills-based Dun and Bradstreet has stepped down. Robert Carrigan resigned Thursday, after the company reported mixed quarterly earnings. He’s being replaced by Thomas Manning, a director of the company, while a search for a new CEO is underway.

Finally, two New Jersey companies have made this year’s Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. The companies are Atlantic Health System, which ranked 74th, and Novo Nordisk, which ranked 95th.