After devastating damage from Hurricane Sandy, portions of New Jersey are beginning the recovery process. Choose New Jersey is a non-profit corporation that has a mission of encouraging economic growth in the state. President and CEO Tracye McDaniel told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she believes the storm has provided New Jersey with an opportunity to strengthen the infrastructure and help business thrive.
While the storm has been devastating for many, McDaniel said it shows the strength of New Jersey. “It gives us an opportunity to tell the world that businesses are open and are coming back and tell the wonderful story about true assets that we have in this state,” she said.
McDaniel has experience in the rebuilding process. She was in Texas after Hurricane Ike and took part in that state’s rebuilding efforts. While she said each storm and community is unique, her time in Texas was a learning experience. “You really have to work with the dynamics and build on the assets that currently exist,” she said. “This has been tough on New Jersey. But I think what we will see and like we are seeing with this campaign, people coming together, businesses, government leaders across party lines coming together to rebuild New Jersey.”
The Choose New Jersey campaign is focused on speaking to business owners to retain them in the state. After a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, McDaniel said companies can look to other states or regions to relocate.
“We want to assure them that New Jersey is going to stand by them through this storm and we’re here to help them rebuild in New Jersey,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities that come from natural disasters or crisis and we’re looking at this as an opportunity to really take a strategic look at New Jersey and its many assets and say how can we strengthen that infrastructure and help the businesses that are here no matter what size to continue to grow in this state.”
Part of the Choose New Jersey campaign includes discussing best practices and creating a better infrastructure, according to McDaniel. “This is an opportunity we’re funding at all levels,” she said. “We’ll be able to be focused on rebuilding current infrastructure for opportunities.”
While the storm caused the loss of business for many, McDaniel said new jobs could be created in the aftermath, particularly in retail. She also said recovering from disaster isn’t new for New Jersey.
“If you think about where New Jersey has been, this is not the first time that we will overcome a disaster. If you look at 9/11 and you look at the security and the infrastructure that has been built because of that and the best practices that we have through data and communications, shoring and ensuring that we have strong infrastructure today, I think that’s where we learn. We’re going to see that happening after this storm,” McDaniel said. “Now it’s time for us to rebuild and strengthen those lines.”
While New Jersey’s economic situation hasn’t been too strong recently, McDaniel said the legislature and the administration are aware of positive business practices. “They’re looking at all ways that they can to strengthen and make New Jersey more competitive,” she said. She cited the $750 million bond for higher education as an example of an important collaboration to strengthen the research and development community in New Jersey. Another example she cited is the alignment of Rutgers University and the state’s medical schools.
“We commend legislators, this administration for thinking about pro-business ways that we can keep New Jersey competitive,” McDaniel said.