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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Bracken: Buy Local to Boost NJ Economy

Thomas Bracken

By Eric Conklin

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
COURT HOUSE – Despite not being able to meet in person for a monthly lunch June 18, Cape May County Chamber of Commerce members, through Zoom, were given perspectives about New Jersey’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
Thomas Bracken, president and chief executive officer, New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, who also spoke to chamber members at January’s meeting, discussed efforts to ease economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Joining Bracken was Michael Egenton, the state chamber’s vice president.
Businesses vs. Coronavirus
In the meeting sponsored by South Jersey Gas, Bracken, being ingrained in the business community, addressed needs for New Jersey small businesses as they recover from an economic crunch. Several key aspects mentioned included the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other available loans, in-state consumer spending, business safety, and business recovery financing.
Bracken said the most important of three aspects to the state chamber is how businesses would receive working capital to assist economic renewal. The state chamber, according to Bracken, has addressed the issue, among others, to the U.S. chamber’s Task Force.
“We have been able to, I think, effectuate some results based on our input,” Bracken said, “and we’re still fighting all of those.”
Bracken also stressed the importance of consumer spending in New Jersey, which is why “Buy NJ,” a program established by the state’s chamber of commerce, promotes in-state economic recovery efforts through local spending.
“If you’re a business right now, you’re going through a very introspective look at your company,” Bracken said. “You’re looking at everything – the number of people needed, the facilities needed, what kind of inventory I need. You’re looking at your process and procedures, so one of the things we’re saying is, ‘why don’t you look at your vendor list and see if there are companies that you’re buying from that are not New Jersey companies that you can find in the state to buy from to help with their revenue, which helps the whole state.”
Another important aspect of economic recovery discussed was business safety. Bracken said this, too, is atop the state chamber’s list of urgent recovery issues that could plague business reopenings.
For businesses to reopen, Bracken said it’s key that there is customer and staff safety, especially when lawsuits can surface if someone is infected with the virus because the federal government has yet to provide safe harbors. This is why, Bracken said, Gov. Phil Murphy introduced the “One Jersey Pledge,” a program that explains and promotes safety mandates the governor is imposing on businesses as they reopen.
When asked for insights on tourism by Cape May County Chamber President Vicki Clark, Bracken responded by saying that the industry isn’t addressed enough, especially when it’s an economic driver for New Jersey. He replied to Clark, who discussed Cape May County’s campaign to promote tourism during the crisis, by saying that he will support the county’s promotion of tourism.
Bracken Critical of Economic Management
While Bracken lauded Gov. Murphy for addressing medical aspects of the crisis, he believes the governor continues not to take necessary measures to prevent New Jersey’s economy from dissolving further. Preparing for economic fallout, Bracken said, was one aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic that he feels the Murphy administration lacked to establish earlier during New Jersey’s outbreak.
“At the very beginning of the medical crisis, we started talking about that we’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Bracken said, “and what I meant by that was we need to start planning for the economic impact of this medical crisis now. We don’t have to implement anything now, but we have to start planning for it because if you plan after things have settled down, you’re losing time, and with regard to businesses, time is money.”
Bracken later added that he and the state chamber continue to have discussions on COVID-19’s economic impact with the governor and his staff.
Budget Cuts Loom
Unlike January’s meeting, Bracken was joined by state chamber Vice President Egenton, who discussed New Jersey’s budget’s status.
When the outbreak began in March, Egenton said, the state froze nearly $1 billion in spending due to looming uncertainty and the state’s tax filing date being extended. As a result, the state Legislature and governor passed the Fiscal Meditation Act, which delays tax filings to July 15 and initiates an extension for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.
Egenton added that the Fiscal Year 2021 budget is of most concern to the state chamber.
“The state says it’s facing a revenue shortfall of almost $10 billion between now and next June, and almost $3 billion in the FY20 budget, and a little over $7 billion in the FY21 state budget,” Egenton said.
Also mentioned were expected budget cuts proposed by the state treasurer. According to a state treasurer’s report, Egenton said, “they’re looking at roughly $1.3 billion in proposed appropriations, $3.2 billion in cuts or delayed first-quarter appropriations, and a withdraw of about $850 million in proposed spending priorities for FY21.”
Legislation passed in the state Assembly would allow Gov. Murphy authority to borrow billions of dollars to help offset projected revenue losses; however, according to Egenton, Senate President Stephen Sweeney has addressed concerns about the legislation, which hasn’t been introduced in the state Senate yet.
‘Safely Together’
Cape May County Chamber President Vicki Clark explained the county’s new ‘Safely Together’ initiative, which promotes social distancing when engaging in the county’s recreational features this summer. Through screen sharing on Zoom, Clark presented downloadable images that can be used for social media, email signatures, and on websites. Stickers will also be available.
More information is available on the program’s website.
To contact Eric Conklin, email econklin@cmcherald.com.

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