BUSINESS & ECONOMY

NJBIA President Says State’s Economy is Improving

Lawmakers have been working on the Economic Opportunity Act as a way to encourage businesses to come to and stay in New Jersey. One of the supporters of the legislation is New Jersey Business and Industry Association President Philip Kirschner. He told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes the measure will help improve employment numbers in the state. He also discussed the delayed implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which he supports, and changes to immigration.

Kirschner said the Economic Opportunity Act offers a very streamlined application of incentives. “We also have incentives now that I think are as good as any in the country, but particularly New York and Pennsylvania who have been very, very aggressive in trying to poach companies from us and keep companies from coming to New Jersey. Now I think we can compete with really any state in the country when it comes to incentives,” he said.

According to Kirschner, there is more confidence in New Jersey’s economy than there was several years ago. “They really like the direction in which the state is headed. And these kinds of policies I think just buttress and firm up that kind of new appeal that the state has,” he said.

The Obama administration announced this week that it will delay the implementation of part of the Affordable Care Act until 2015. Kirschner said the business community not only asked for that, but predicted it would happen because the rules weren’t clear.

“There are thousands and thousands of pages of rules and regulations that have yet to be written. And people who want to comply — all our members — they are confused as to what to do, when they have to do it, all the fine print on that. And they want to do it right. So the federal government actually agreed and said. ‘Look we’ll give you another year because we’re not ready and you’re not ready,'” Kirschner said. “So I think you’re going to see more delays until they get it right, until there’s more certainty. But I think you’ll see more changes. Because they’re not really ready to implement this on the scale that they had hoped to by Jan. 1, 2014.”

Immigration is another area of concern for employers. Members of the U.S. Senate voted to reform the country’s immigration law, offering a pathway to citizenship and more tightly securing the borders. Kirschner said there isn’t an overwhelming consensus among NJBIA members regarding the issue of immigration, but said more members are in favor of the reform than opposed to it. He said those who employ farm workers and factory workers, as well as those who run IT operations favor the reform. “At both the low end and the high end, it is an issue and they feel very, very strongly that this will help the businesses in those straights,” he said.

The economic situation of the state seems to be improving, according to Kirschner, who said he is seeing more optimism than he was a year ago. “We’ve conducted two surveys of our members. Whether they sit on Main Street or on a corner office in a big company, we’re seeing much more optimism in terms of sales and profits, employment. And we think that’s going to continue — small but steady and consistent gains,” he said.

According to Kirschner, confidence builds when there is steady and consistent growth, which New Jersey has seen over the last six months. “That’s much better than what we were seeing prior to that which was big gains one month, back down another month. Big gains another month, back down. It’s the consistency that breeds the confidence. And we are seeing that now,” he said.