Opinion

Why aren’t more doctors being trained in N.J.? Start with 1996 rule congressional leaders are trying to change

There was the incredible number: The country is expected to have a shortage of 120,000 doctors by the year 2030.

And the incredible local number: New Jersey is expected to be short 2,500 doctors next year.

And then there was the even-harder-to-believe number: Holy Name Medical Center is only allowed to train six medical residents a year, thanks to a regulation based on 1996 statistics.

In that year, Holy Name had just six residents — thus, that is its limit today.

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) is looking to change that, proposing what is called the Graduate Medical Education Bill that would allow hospitals to get reimbursement to train as many doctors as they are able.

It’s a way, he said, of tackling the coming physician shortage head-on — improving health care for state residents and the state economy at the same time.

“Our legislation corrects the arbitrary cap, which will help us recruit and retain more talented physicians to help our New Jersey medical community grow,” he said. “It will make graduate medical school slots available to hospitals that have been locked out for decades now and allow hospitals to invest in teaching programs to attract medical students to Jersey and keep our health care workforce competitive.”

Gottheimer, flanked by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) at an event at Holy Name in Teaneck, is confident the GME bill can get through. Menendez and Pascrell said they will use their status in their legislative houses to see that it does.

“It’s just common sense to have more hospitals to have our new doctors train here in New Jersey,” Gottheimer said.

Holy Name CEO Mike Maron agrees. But, he does so knowing that nothing about the current regulations make sense.

Maron, the well-respected health care thought leader, has been stymied by this ruling for years. He points to nearby hospitals to show just how arbitrary the cap is. Simply put, every hospital is capped at the number of residents it had in 1996 — unless the hospital in question didn’t have a program. Those medical centers can add residents at will.

“Palisades General had none in 1996, now they have over 100 residents — and they are getting fully reimbursed, because the rule says if you had zero in ’96, you’re free to go,” he told ROI-NJ. “(Valley Hospital CEO) Audrey Meyers could do this unencumbered tomorrow. She wouldn’t have to do anything special. She could just start it and get paid for it. I can’t.”

All because of something that happened more than two decades ago.

“What happened in 1996 was a (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) regulation,” Maron said. “And, in order to change the regulation, you need new legislation. So, 1996, believe it or not, is the base year for how Medicare reimburses hospitals today across all services.

“The (system) Medicare uses to pay us is based on 1996 practice. Graduate medical education is a component of that system. And, so, what they did is, they just froze it.”

Despite this, most hospitals are not impacted today. Many did not have programs in 1996. Others have since joined greater health care organizations.

“There aren’t many of us left,” Maron said, refereeing to standalone hospitals.

This confusion, he said, caused a previous version of this bill to be presented poorly.

“The (Congressional Budget Office) marked up the bill all wrong,” he said. “I remember the headline: It said this bill would cost more than building a wall. How are you going to get that passed?”

Menendez said he is hopeful the new bill can be attached to upcoming legislation on Medicare.

Maron said it can’t happen soon enough.

He said no one in the state would object, saying more than 300 graduates last year did not have residency programs available. Holy Name, he said, would gladly take them.

And Holy Name already has a bigger partner ready to help provide students and assistance: Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Mount Sinai Chief Medical Officer Ben Kornitzer said the hospital is ready to partner.

“We understand the resources and investment that are needed to be made for this to be a successful program,” he said. “We are 100% committed to working with the excellent leadership here and identifying what those resources are, what those strategies are, so we can be partners and help support further growth of this residency program.”

Maron said new rules — and a new partnership with Mount Sinai — could help change another number: The small percentage of medical graduates who actually want to become the doctors that are needed most: general practitioners.

“Many of the major academic centers want to train specialists because the general perception out there is that there’s more money to be made being a specialist and better work hours,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is dispel that myth.

“We’re going to show doctors that you can have a balanced lifestyle and have a very rewarding career as a primary care physician. We think we can move that needle significantly by exposing them to how we do things here.”

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Craft brewers: Developing right infrastructure to grow

Nearly a decade since craft beer first hit mainstream popularity, the industry continues to grow at steady rates. The national craft beer market now tops $26 billion and key players continue to seek new ways to scale their business to meet this increasing consumer demand.

Craft beer popularity has grown in part due to its availability in a wide range of venues — from pop-up beer gardens to fine dining restaurants. Locally, New Jersey is home to over 100 breweries, and according to a study by the research company C + R, New Jersey has seen a 43% growth in the craft beer industry since 2015.

Many breweries across the state are expanding to meet the demand. In 2012, the state allowed breweries to starting selling beer on-site, but some restaurant and bars claimed it hurt their businesses. Recently, New Jersey’s Division of Alcohol Beverage Control announced new regulations for breweries with a craft brewery license; no breweries can sell food, they are required to give guests a tour, and breweries can only host 52 private events per year and 25 public advertised events.

For local brewers seeking to improve production and distribution, and use the new legislation to their advantage, here are some best practices on expanding your craft beer network.

Local, regional and national brewers

Craft beer companies typically fit into three categories based on size: the small, local brewpub; the regional brewer; and the national production brewery. Each has unique needs when it comes to production and distribution.

The local brewpub typically sells most of its beer on premise or at the brewer’s restaurant. This reduces the need for distribution and allows the brewpub to recognize profits quickly. A regional brewer, on the other hand, typically requires more equipment, such as tanks, as well as a larger amount of real estate to produce and store inventory. A regional brewer, on the other hand, might be selling out of a tasting room from one or multiple breweries, but most of their revenue and growth comes through selling its brews into other retail accounts, both on- and off-premise. Between 2016 and 2017, regional craft breweries grew by 5%, to reach 70.6% of overall craft beer industry production volume. At a much larger scale, a national production brewery may have several operations and requires a more sophisticated and robust distribution system.

To grow or not to grow

In today’s market, expansion is a matter of choice rather than survival. Each category of brewery has its advantages and drawbacks, and each has the ability to be profitable. It’s important for investors and owners of breweries to align on objectives when it comes to growth targets and appetite for expansion. Once brewers and investors agree on business objectives, they can set priorities for investment and determine the amount of capital they’ll need to build their infrastructure. If a brewer aims to slowly expand a brewpub, for example, he may not need to purchase a new warehouse to store beer right away; instead, he can gradually scale up distribution. As part of this evaluation process, brewers will also want to consider operational needs to maintain equipment, including maintenance and upgrades.

Assessing where (and how) to expand

Brewers also need to evaluate where to expand. Craft-centric regions, including Philadelphia, San Diego, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest, as well as the newer craft hubs of Austin, Texas, Atlanta, Chicago and Asheville, North Carolina, have turned into highly sought-after destinations for craft beer tourism. This equates to a high demand for craft beer in these areas, but it doesn’t come without fierce competition from brewers seeking to reach the same customer base.

A key partnership for craft brewers are beer wholesalers, who support, sell and distribute their product. As the craft beer industry has continued to grow over the last decade, wholesalers have adjusted their business models from supporting a few key suppliers (such as Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors) to now having more than 30 breweries to support, sell and distribute. Wholesalers have also increased the training and size of staff, often deploying craft-only sales teams. Today, brewers have the opportunity to work with large distributors as well as craft-only distributors. Craft beer’s continued growth will be in part due to the commitment and support of these innovative beer wholesalers.

What works best for your craft beer?

Ultimately, the value for a particular brewer is case dependent. Key factors to consider include quantitative elements (growth rate and profitability), intangible factors (brand awareness), competition (assessing if similar products are in the market) and, finally, succession planning based on the end goal (for example, an initial public offering or selling to a larger brewer).

Brewers must assess if the distribution strategies implemented would support their growth and closely align their financial strategies with their long-term goals. The craft beer industry has already climbed to nearly one-quarter of the U.S. beer market, and continues to become more competitive for the next generation of entrepreneurial brewers. Though craft brewers face fierce competition and a unique set of industry challenges, their ability to secure capital and the future of the craft brewing industry has never been better.

Cathleen Callahan is a senior vice president and market executive for Bank of America.

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N.J.’s new medical marijuana applications enhance market for patients, providers

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John D. Fanburg of Brach Eichler.

The most recent request for proposals by the New Jersey Department of Health‘s Division of Medicinal Marijuana portends not only an enhanced marketplace for both patients and providers, it exhibits the sophistication of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration fulfilling its mission of creating a mature marijuana market in New Jersey.

The 25 new licenses are also the best opportunity yet for New Jersey entrepreneurs to gain an equal footing with their out-of-state peers in creating successful business plans under the program. The Murphy administration also left itself in a position to control the quality of participants in the program by offering only 25 new licenses, as opposed to the previously discussed 108. If there is a great depth of demand from patients and a population of qualified prospective providers, the administration can always continue to expand the market.

It’s good for business

The last round, which attracted nearly 150 applications for six licenses, definitively eliminated companies without substantial prior experience, which left New Jersey-based applicants out of the running. Now that the largest companies already received licenses, the more than 144 unsuccessful applications from the last round have a head start on this cycle of licensure.

The existing 12 licensed entities required vertically integrated businesses, which disadvantaged local or smaller companies that frequently formed collaborative entities out of necessity to fulfill all the application requirements in previous rounds. This new application process offers 21 opportunities for entrepreneurs to apply for a specialized license, allowing the previous 144 unsuccessful applicants, and many more who were discouraged by the expansiveness of the previous cycle, to apply based on their expertise.

It’s good for consumers

The state will continue to select locations based on serving population centers. With 31 providers (19 new providers in addition to the current 12) throughout the state, anyone with a prescription should be within a half-hour drive, and many people within 10 minutes, increasing access to the estimated 300,000 New Jersey residents who need medical marijuana for chronic issues.

Dispensaries, like coffee shops, have innovative retail concepts and product differentiation. Under the expansion, the marketplace will bloom beyond the cigarette or pipe, which are often less popular options to edibles, vape, edible oils and THC pill form.

More suppliers will lead to more specific strains and better treatment options, as well as, presumably, more advantageous pricing.

How many applications for +/- 40 municipalities?

We expect that the New Jersey Department of Health’s request for applications for the next 25 licenses, due Aug. 22, will generate hundreds of applications.

The complexity is that each of those applicants will need a commitment from a municipality to welcome medical marijuana enterprises, and that is a shrinking rather than an expanding number. Many towns declined to participate in the last round — and opposition to any cannabis at all was solidified as a result of the politicking of the Adult Use (Recreational) Cannabis bills during this spring.

As a result of the six applicants chosen in the last round, the field is that much narrower. Look for only 25 or so municipalities to put out the welcome mat, and, while some will provide blanket endorsements, many of these will have a filtering process before endorsing specific applicants be cited in a dozen or more applications.

John D. Fanburg is managing member; chair, healthcare law; and co-chair, cannabis law, for Brach Eichler.

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Working together to deliver on promise more than 30 years in the making

Courtesy photo

Camden County Freeholder Jeff Nash.

On a summer day in 1992, I found myself among a large crowd inside the iconic RCA Building in Camden city where the world’s first recordings were set to vinyl. Then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton arrived at an otherwise desolate Camden waterfront for his first stop following his nomination at the Democratic National Convention in New York City. The future president spoke to jubilant supporters about his bold plans for urban renewal and the bright future envisioned for the city he visited that day.

In the almost three decades which followed, there have been many similar promises to rebuild one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the United States. Most plans were well-intentioned, all very expensive, but, despite all these efforts, Camden remained impoverished with limited opportunities for its residents.

Shortly after the Clinton visit, then-Gov. Jim Florio announced the “Camden Initiative,” only to see the plan abandoned by the incoming administration of Gov. Christie Whitman. Moving forward, it was replaced by a plan to develop the waterfront and clean Admiral Wilson Boulevard, but which essentially ignored the city’s neighborhoods. Gov. Jim McGreevey attempted to correct course by investing $175 million into those neighborhoods, but the investment was spread too thin, given the enormous need. Then the Great Recession handcuffed any economic opportunities explored by the following Gov. Jon Corzine administration.

Ironically, it was a Republican, Gov. Chris Christie, who, with a Democratic Legislature headed by Senate President Steve Sweeney and then-state Sen. Donald Norcross, lifted Camden’s trajectory for the first time in decades. Christie observed that, over the course of his first term, state aid to Camden increased approximately 40% to $350 million annually. He lamented about tax dollars being used to maintain the unacceptable status quo — the most dangerous, poorest city in the nation. He recognized that, either something dramatic was to be done to reverse the trend, or the annual cost to taxpayers would soon reach an astronomical $500 million a year.

Thus, the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 was born, extending enticing tax incentives to companies willing to invest millions of dollars and certify full-time employment in Camden and four other distressed cities in the state. Specifically, the plan was designed to create new jobs, which, in turn, would generate new state revenue to offset state aid and tax credits.

Around the same time, the Urban Hope Act created new educational opportunities for students, and the city police department was replaced by a larger county-run Metro force.

The revitalization legislation exceeded expectations. Objective observers have hailed the city’s revival as a model for the transformation of a midsize urban center in the United States. The result: a $2 billion private sector business investment; thousands of new job opportunities; training for residents to fill jobs; demolition of dangerous buildings; revitalization of a dilapidated parks system; new market-rate housing; infrastructure repairs; higher educational achievements; and significantly lower crime.

The challenge for Camden today is to sustain that positive momentum in a volatile political environment fueled by Trenton turmoil. However, 30 years of failed efforts should remind us that we finally found a revitalization formula that works. Our focus must not be shifted by misguided politics, but rather remain on job training, education and safety for Camden’s residents and all of South Jersey.

If I had closed my eyes at the RCA Building that summer day in 1992, and reopened them today, I would see a thriving waterfront and improved neighborhoods. I would have to conclude that Clinton’s optimistic vision of Camden’s future came to fruition.

What I see for our future is the next president visiting some impoverished community elsewhere in America and envisioning that it could one day be a city transformed like Camden.

Jeff Nash has served as a Camden County freeholder for 27 years, first elected in 1991. He is also vice chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority, having served under five governors in that appointed position. He is an attorney who moved his law office to Camden city.

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Life after liquidity: 3 things to know before selling your business

As we draw closer to the end of a business cycle, mergers & acquisitions activity in New Jersey is anything but quiet. The business lifecycle continues to accelerate, creating both pressure and disruption for business owners. Innovation across the state’s core industries has fueled further competition across the spectrum. At a time when organic growth has been slower over the past few years, companies have been turning to more acquisitive opportunities in order to continue to hit their growth trajectories and stave off new competitive entrants. This point is further illustrated in JPMorgan Chase’s 2019 Business Leaders Outlook survey, where a number of business owners have identified M&A as a catalyst for future growth.

JPMorgan Chase
Lester Pataki of JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking.

What generates concern for business owners is often the uncertainty around the M&A or sale process and what the outcomes may be. The inevitable worries might include “Is now the right time? Will I get the maximum value for my business? What happens to me and my family after the ink is dry?”

Among the top ways to prepare for such an event, and to ease anxieties, are educating yourself on three key considerations as you prepare for a sale or restructuring.

Don’t underestimate the emotional side of the transaction

Business owners often focus on how to maximize transaction value and do not take the necessary steps to secure the best personal outcome from the sale of a business. Deciding to sell a business is a deeply personal decision. The right sale structure is often motivated by factors other than financial metrics, and can depend greatly on how the owner envisions their life post-transaction.

For these reasons, it is important to establish in advance the primary purpose, or intent, for your money — both the financial and structural outcome — before taking any other steps. Identifying a primary intent moves the focus on a company’s sale to the broader purpose of the financial and structural outcome, which can align overall wealth strategy and decision making with the individual’s or family’s goals.

Key questions to ask yourself:

  • What’s the level of involvement you envision for yourself post-transaction? What level of control, or lack of, are you comfortable with?
  • Do you have family members whose livelihoods are dependent on the business?

Know your options

Each business owner’s exit strategy may look different depending on the role they want to play post-transaction and how they want to structure their deal. Business owners need to marry their business and personal objectives to arrive at the best option. While selling is a common path for business owners seeking liquidity, it’s just one option. There are lots of ways to extract liquidity that are often overlooked.

Aside from a full sale of your business — a clean break — you might continue with an equity stake. With a minority controlled equity stake, you may contribute still to the company’s strategic operations if your goal is to still maintain some control. You may also consider a structured sale or employee stock ownership plan.

Key questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the business?
  • Am I aware of what the industry multiples are/market value of my industry?

Ask the tough questions during planning — and do it early

Planning helps avoid risk to your business and your personal financial plans, and also keeps the peace among business partners, stakeholders and family. If an exit strategy is on the horizon, understanding economic conditions and trends is key. For example, technology is both an enabler and disruptor of business models and, in New Jersey, the bio and medical technology industries are growing apace. Having an informed view of the outlook for your business’ sector from a regional and industry point of view will be additive to understand the price value of the business.

Timing is also a critical consideration. Decision makers should be of sound mind, and not “under the gun” with time constraints or financial distress. Ideally, transaction planning begins as much as three to five years in advance of execution. When there is a compressed time period to finish the deal, the owner may not get the most out of their hard-earned equity interest, and may regret a strategic decision they could have handled differently.

Depending on the leadership structure of the business, you may be exposed to some unique risks. For example, if the No. 1 decision maker can no longer fill that role, what happens to the company’s operations? If the business is family-owned or operated, is there a logical succession plan in place? No matter what age an owner or business might be, this step is critically important.

Key questions to ask yourself:

  • How will the talent, financial and operational executions function after the deal?
  • Is there a succession plan in place for critical roles to support the business?
  • Have you established procedures for conflict resolution and exits from the business to avoid disruption?
  • Have you established a contingency plan in case of your incapacity or death?

J.P. Morgan Private Bank in New Jersey is run by Market Manager Alma DeMetropolis, who leads a team of local professionals that provide wealth management advice, strategies and services to successful individuals, family offices, foundations and endowments throughout the region. Lester Pataki is a managing director and middle market banking region manager for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking in New Jersey. He leads a team of commercial bankers who help local companies succeed at every stage of growth through tailored solutions, including credit and financing, treasury and payments and international banking.

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Why N.J. needs the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement

“I know where you were born!”

I find myself yelling that each time I see an Audi Q5 on the Garden State Parkway these days. Because I know the answer.

That birthplace is Puebla, Mexico. Better known for the May 5, 1862, defeat of the French Army that started the Cinco de Mayo tradition, Puebla is also home to a $1.3 billion manufacturing facility that employs 5,000 people and produces more than 500 Audi Q5s every day.

It was on the floor of this facility earlier this spring, as part of a recent bipartisan delegation hosted by the U.S.-Mexico Foundation, that I saw firsthand how interconnected the economies of the United States and Mexico are, and how much New Jersey stands to benefit from the pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The Audis taking shape before our eyes, and the Volkswagens produced just down the road, are shipped all over the world, many of them entering the United States at ports in Newark, Bayonne and Elizabeth. These imports currently come to New Jersey at a lower price, thus expanding consumer choices. The same is true for the other Mexican products Americans purchase — from household appliances and medical equipment to tequila, avocados and baked goods.

This trade relationship is, of course, very good for Mexicans. The thousands employed by Audi, Volkswagen, and countless other international companies have helped stabilize the country’s economy and contributed to a sizeable middle class. Both immigration hawks and doves can find something to like in a more sustainable Mexican economy, which invariably relieves pressure at the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the same time, New Jersey exports nearly $2 billion worth of products to Mexico, plus another $7 billion worth of products to Canada. The two countries are New Jersey’s largest trading partners, accounting for nearly a third of our state’s total exports. Mexico, Canada and another 200 countries purchase a range of New Jersey products — from the chemicals developed in laboratories in Princeton and Bridgewater to the aerospace technology manufactured in Edison and Parsippany. Exports alone account for 6.8% of our state’s GDP.

Trade is wired throughout New Jersey’s economy — we are the 13th-biggest exporter by total dollar value and in the Top 10 for fastest-growing export states — which makes us a critical stakeholder in the current trade debate.

Manipulation of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship through tariffs starting at 5 percent and possibly growing to 25 percent will, of course, increase the price New Jerseyans pay for an Audi in Paramus or an avocado in Asbury Park — to say nothing of the inevitable retaliation on the products New Jersey exports to Mexico.

The extent to which this government intervention would influence consumer behavior is hard to measure, in part because the size, scope and time horizon for tariffs have been uncertain as of late.

New Jersey’s elected representatives will criticize these tariffs, but they should go a step further and affirmatively support a solution. The USMCA, which the leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada signed in November 2018, needs a vote in Congress.

Swift passage of this agreement would not only safeguard the 1 million New Jersey jobs directly or indirectly supported by trade, but also bring key elements of NAFTA into the 21st century, particularly around the digital economy and worker and environmental protections.

The USMCA ensures that more parts of automobiles originate in the United States, Mexico or Canada; it opens Canadian dairy markets to the United States; and it strengthens intellectual property and copyright protections for technologies that didn’t exist at the time of NAFTA.

The USMCA’s greatest strength is, however, what it preserves about NAFTA: abundant, affordable choices for American consumers and the ability for places like New Jersey to confidently pursue foreign markets for our products and services.

Opening new markets to trade has worked before. Since NAFTA became law in 1994, New Jersey’s exports to Mexico alone increased by more than 400 percent. Now is the time to reaffirm one of the world’s largest and most successful trading relationships.

The USMCA will provide a critical and very significant boost to the economies in the United States, Mexico, and Canada — and it will remind us all that trade, with its natural ebbs and flows, is an inevitable and powerful force for good.

Michael Inganamort is a partner at ASG Advisors and Republican councilman in Chester Township.

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Yet another great Jersey invention: blockchain

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James Barrood is CEO and president of the New Jersey Tech Council.

New Jersey’s citizens and technologists are justly proud of all that’s been invented here. Transistors and tetracycline, Teflon and traffic circles. Bar codes and batting cages. Incandescent light bulbs, steam locomotives, Valium, bubble wrap, LCDs, C++, and Unix. But here’s one you might not have known about: blockchain.

You thought blockchain was invented by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, right? And people are still fighting about who Nakamoto is and where he (or she) came from. Well, they are — but, as Amy Whitaker pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, blockchain was actually invented at a Friendly’s ice cream parlor in Morristown.

“In 1990, the physicist Scott Stornetta had a eureka moment while getting ice cream with his family (there). He and his cryptographer colleague, Stuart Haber, had been thinking about the proliferation of digital files … and the ease with which files could be altered. They wondered how we might know for certain what was true about the past. What would prevent tampering with the historical record — and would it be possible to protect such information for future generations? Dr. Stornetta realized that the problem could be solved by decentralization: instead of a central record-keeper, the system could have many dispersed but interconnected copies of a shared ledger. The truth could never be typed over if there were too many linked ledgers to alter.”

Beginning in 1991, Stornetta and Haber published three of the seminal papers that “Nakamoto” would later quote in his own now-classic document introducing bitcoin and its decentralized blockchain. The system presented in Stornetta’s and Haber’s papers included most of the elements of modern blockchains, demonstrating how to establish a distributed consensus that made counterfeiting virtually impossible.

Why am I telling you this story, when you can read more detailed accounts in the Wall Street Journal and in Vice’s Motherboard? Because it illuminates several points about technical innovation that matter powerfully to us in New Jersey right now.

  1. Critical mass. When Stornetta had his epiphany, he and Haber worked at Bellcore, the Bell Labs spinoff that served the regional Bell operating companies. The two researchers were brought together in collaboration as part of New Jersey’s already-legendary ecosystem of innovation around networking and information technology.
  2. A culture of entrepreneurship. While huge, well-funded research centers like Bellcore and Bell Labs have always differentiated New Jersey, so has entrepreneurship. Building on their great idea, Stornetta and Haber founded Surety, a company that built products to protect intellectual property, preserve digital evidence and prove the authenticity of electronic data.
  3. The power of ideas. Surety still operates, but its ideas have had the biggest impact elsewhere, in different applications, ventures and markets — as great ideas so often do. (Stornetta recently observed that the early scientific literature surrounding blockchain still has ideas that could be mined for profit, if people would simply read them.)
  4. The indispensability of smart investors with capital to invest. Nowadays, Stornetta himself is chief scientist at a private equity firm investing in blockchain startups. And, here in his old backyard, New Jersey and the surrounding region is the nation’s second-largest innovation hub by the metric of venture capital funding.

When it comes to funding, we’re in a good place that’s only getting better. Here in New Jersey, new funds keep coming online — including the New Jersey Tech Council’s second venture fund, Tech Council Ventures, which has already made four investments, and our JumpStart Angel Network — 17 years old, and still growing.

If you’re in (or near) New Jersey and you care about technology and innovation, you should know more about these great funding communities. The Tech Council will be honoring some of our most influential investors and business leaders at its annual CFO + Investor Awards on June 7. (Click the link for more information.) Their efforts to finance and create the future don’t get enough recognition. We’re out to fix that — and you’re invited.

James Barrood is CEO and president of the New Jersey Tech Council.

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Working toward bridging the employment gap

I meet a lot of young people everyday who are looking for somewhere that they can give an honest day’s work. Many of them come to me as students of a pre-apprenticeship program at the American Community Partnership in Camden where I teach carpentry and serve on the apprentice committee for Carpenters Union Local 1578. Others are introduced through the County One-Stop and Workforce Investment Board, which finds jobs for residents throughout Camden County, and which I oversee as an elected official.

In short, I see as many ready-to-work residents as perhaps any other official in the City of Camden. That’s why I am, and have been prior to my time in elected office, singularly focused on finding Camden residents jobs. To me, there is nothing better than seeing someone like Emerson Hill, a Centerville resident, become a carpenter or learn a trade of their own. I met Emerson when he joined my pre-apprenticeship program. He has since worked on some of the Camden’s largest projects and instead of floating from job to job he now has a career as a carpenter.

Recruiting residents into the trades has always been my mission. In 2016, a letter was placed on the door of every household in Camden, in Spanish and English, to make them aware of the Camden Construction Careers Initiative, a program that trained more than 50 residents in construction trades, and helped them find stable, well-paying, union jobs. These new members joined 386 other residents that worked, or are working, on the nearly $2.5 billion of public/private construction that has taken place over the last six years.

In 2018 alone, the Camden County One-Stop placed 795 Camden residents into employment in a variety of jobs. To date, approximately 850 Camden residents have been directly hired at companies that utilized state-incentive programs to relocate to the City. This, at a time when Camden’s unemployment rate is hovering around a 28-year low, is a phenomenal success in what is only the first stage of the City’s renaissance.

And again, this is just the start of a litany of efforts to place Camden residents in jobs created by Eds and Meds institutions and other Camden businesses. The list goes on and on, with other initiatives like the medical coding program which guarantees graduates jobs at Cooper University Hospital upon graduation, and the initiative launched in 2015 to train Camden-area high school seniors as medical assistants tuition-free. Those graduates are also guaranteed employment at participating hospitals in Camden that include Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Virtua Family Health Center, and Cooper University Healthcare.

Furthermore, incredible educators like Patrick Moore are ensuring that Camden residents can provide skilled labor to the City’s newest businesses. Patrick walks into Subaru University every day in the Respond Inc. automotive shop in North Camden to teach the next generation of automotive technicians for Subaru and the other car manufacturers and dealers. This program, started with a $250,000 grant from Subaru, and turned out more than 25 new automotive technicians since 2017.

Principals in the city’s business community deserve the spotlight as well. EMR Eastern LLC CEO, Joe Balzano Jr., is a man that I know is committed to hiring as many Camden residents as possible. When I visited Joe’s new auto assembly line in South Camden last year I met Ladeen Hornsby who lives in the Parkside neighborhood. Ladeen is one of more than 250 new Camden hires at the EMR facility that are members of the Teamsters union.  In total more than 50 percent of Joe’s total manufacturing workforce resides in the city.

Nevertheless, this is incremental progress that is growing day by and day. We can do more and we can do better, but let’s remember there are institutions in the city that have dedicated a significant amount of equity into hiring, workforce development and making the employment match.

Despite the narrative preferred by those who don’t wish to see the revitalization taking place in Camden, there has already been tremendous progress in terms of improved public health, reduction in poverty and overall socioeconomic conditions in the City.

When today’s children graduate from high school, they’ll enter a labor pool in Camden that benefits from higher wages, increased benefits, and better stability, than their parents, thanks to the work of organizations and businesses that are make a generational commitment to the City of Camden.

As a leader in Camden County and the City of Camden, my focus remains, as does the focus of all of Camden’s elected and non-elected leaders, on connecting governmental agencies, not-for-profits and community groups, and private businesses to ensure that the opportunities created in the City are first and foremost to the benefit of its residents. That has been our focus since 2013, and it will continue to be our focus until Camden is no longer rising- but has risen.

Jonathan Young, Camden County Freeholder.

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Sweeney on negotiating with Murphy: He hasn’t learned to respect Legislature yet

The question was a good one. And it spoke to the type of negotiations that take place this time of year — or, rather, in the final days of June.

Are you looking to trade an agreement for provisions in your Path to Progress proposal in exchange for support of the governor’s new tax incentive programs?

State Senate President Steve Sweeney didn’t hesitate with his answer.

And, he said, he couldn’t even answer, “Yes” or “No.”

The reason: Sweeney said there are no negotiations between the Legislature and the Executive Branch. And there haven’t really been since Gov. Phil Murphy took office.

“Here’s the problem,” Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said. “Phil Murphy worked at Goldman Sachs and I think he still thinks he’s there.

“The Legislature is an equal partner. I can’t get anything done without them. And he can’t get anything done without me or (Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin). So, rather than go about this the way he’s going about it — (running commercials) instead of negotiating — we’re going to go to war.

“I’m not changing. I’m really not.”

Anjalee Khemlani/ROI-NJ
Senate President Steve Sweeney met with the ROI-NJ Editorial Board on Wednesday.

Sweeney, in an hourlong meeting with the ROI-NJ Editorial Board on Wednesday, touched on a variety of subjects. But much of the time was spent not on his Path to Progress — his plan to help reform the state’s financial issues — but on the stalemate the state has come.

One that not only is threatening to create a state shutdown (no real surprise there), but also create an adversarial relationship between the state’s leaders.

It’s getting personal.

“He hasn’t learned to respect the Legislature yet,” Sweeney said.

Worse, he said, he’s encouraging the unions to take the same approach.

“I’m trying to get them to negotiate, and they’re not going to, because the governor’s basically taken a position of, ‘You don’t have to,’ which is really reckless,” he said.

“(For the) leader of our state to just say, ‘Don’t worry, regardless of how many reports that come back from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s that say we’re the second-worst in the country, “We have a pension problem and what are you doing about it?” just ignore it. Don’t worry about it.’

“It’s just not the way to do things.

“I’m telling you, I’m open to negotiating the solution, but it can’t be ‘Give me everything and you get nothing in return.’ That’s not how it works.”

Sweeney said that, in some cases, the unions are leading the governor, pointing to his relationship with the New Jersey Education Association — the teachers union that tried to oust Sweeney from his Senate seat in the last election.

“I think it’s a problem when you’re totally, wholeheartedly owned by the largest union in the state, and that every decision is made for them before it’s made and looked at for the taxpayers,” he said. “Yeah, I think that’s the problem.”

Much of the discussion was on the inability to get state union workers to reduce their health care coverage one notch to a “gold”-level plan — an agreement Sweeney said not only will save money for the state, but ultimately will benefit the union workers.

In fact, the level is better than most people in the state have.

Anjalee Khemlani/ROI-NJ
Steve Sweeney got booed off stage at a recent forum at Rutgers University.

The unions obviously disagree.

Sweeney said he’s eager to discuss the issue, but gets blocked at every turn — the latest being an event at Rutgers University where he was shouted down and no discussion took place.

“The sad thing was, we wanted to have conversations with people,” he said. “They were doing that to scare people away from coming. We were there to have conversations. We really worked to try to have conversations and listen.

“A gold plan is not substandard, high-deductible, cheap health care,” he said. “But there was no one talking honestly to their members.

“It’s really a lack of leadership on their side.”

“If you’re going to take a leadership role, take a leadership role. To do the yelling and screaming, that was done years ago with labor, and you know why labor got away from it? It doesn’t work. You get with people; you talk to people.”

Sweeney said calls to have a debate with Hetty Rosenstein, the powerful head of the Communications Workers of America union, were turned down by her side.

“I’ll debate her anywhere, anytime,” he said.

Sweeney, as everyone knows, is a proud union member. He’s stunned by what he hears.

“They’re calling me anti-labor,” he said.

“I did the minimum wage every time I did. I did (paid) family leave both times.

“How can I be anti-labor?”

He said he’s a labor realist. In fact, he talked about voting to cut his own ironworkers pension.

“You think I wanted to do that?” he asked. “I didn’t want to do it, but I really didn’t have a choice.”

What he really wants, however, is more discussion with the governor.

Especially when it comes to the incentive packages the state needs to compete.

“We’re working on incentives as we talk,” he said. “The speaker and I had been talking incentives for a while. We need to get on the same page before we go see the administration.

“I don’t think there’s a sticking point. I think it’s just us getting our heads together to go to the governor and say, ‘Here’s what we think — what do you think?’ And, until we have a document to give them, we really don’t want to go to them, not being on the same page. And we’ll have to negotiate at that point.

“But, again, this isn’t Goldman Sachs. We’re not going to be dictated to.”

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Fight Murphy’s conditional veto of dark money bill

We know here in New Jersey that outsiders often think of us as having an attitude, and, to an extent, there’s some truth to that. We have strong opinions and will defend them passionately if we disagree. Some of the stereotypes about our home are overblown, but we can agree all over “Joisey” when getting “cawfee” for “yous guys,” that the ones about corruption hit a little too close to the mark for anyone’s liking. Why are we running our government like something out of “The Sopranos”? When it comes to our political process, there is too much untraceable money, and it is definitely getting in the way of having a government that works for the voters.

Recently, a coalition of groups in the state, including Wolf-PAC and Represent.US, began working toward legislation that would shed some light on this dark money. The result was the unassumingly named S1500, a detailed bill specifying campaign finance reform and transparency. This bill received strong popular support, leading to a passage in both chambers of the state Legislature by a bipartisan majority, and there was not a single opposing vote in the Senate. Surely, this would be a new day for New Jersey politics, or at least the start of a new path.

Enter Gov. Phil Murphy. Despite high hopes, after over a month of no action or comment, the governor has, with little fanfare but much commentary in his 20-page document, performed some “extreme dentistry” on S1500, effectively removing its teeth by way of conditional veto. One has to wonder what the motivations are behind dismantling common-sense legislation with such strong popular and bipartisan support. Murphy makes a claim that the bill, as written, might get challenged in court and that there are some sources of dark money it does not address, but his solution is to weaken the bill, which is counterproductive. This is akin to shopping for a cake that serves 12, but only finding cakes that serve 10, and since you don’t know if everybody will like the cake, you buy a pie that serves 8 instead, even though nobody asked for pie in the first place.

We do know that there has been an ongoing spat between Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford). Sweeney has supported this bill, including a portion that would force disclosure of donors by groups such as New Direction New Jersey, a 501(c)(4) that favors and is run by Murphy’s former campaign manager, Brendan Gill, who is also a county freeholder. New Direction New Jersey had previously pledged to reveal who its donors were, but never came through. Perhaps of more interest, and more irksome to Murphy, is the portion of the bill that bans elected officials from involvement with independent expenditure committees. Essex County Freeholder Gill would be forced to choose between his elected office and remaining with New Direction New Jersey, but would not be able to continue in both capacities. It would seem to be common sense that an elected official should not be involved in such groups, but this part of the bill would be removed by Murphy’s conditional veto.

At best, this is political in-fighting. At worst, this is a personal favor for self-interest, meaning political corruption. Either way, we must demand better of our government. We need to speak up, and we can make our voices heard through our senators and assemblypeople, by telling them to override Murphy’s veto. This should not be about political parties, or taking sides within the ruling party. This is about preserving and protecting the integrity of our government and the electoral process.

Action has to happen!

You can get more information on this, including help with contacting your representatives, by contacting Wolf-PAC NJ at newjersey@wolf-pac.com.

Lucas Dicus is the Wolf-PAC New Jersey writing team captain.

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