We talked with Barry Ostrowsky, the CEO and president of RWJBarnabas Health, for our story on the New Jersey Devils’ “One Jersey” plan. It’s not a marketing plan, the team said, but an attempt to start a movement to bring the state’s business community together as a whole for the benefit of everyone.Read the story here.
Ostrowsky and RWJBarnabas quickly agreed to an alliance with the team (and the arena).
As expected, Ostrowsky had a number of insightful and interesting thoughts on doing business in the state.
We thought we would share in an NJBIZ online extra:
NJBIZ: What’s the biggest issue facing New Jersey businesses today?
Barry Ostrowsky: Every significant business in New Jersey seems to have some inferiority complex about being in New Jersey and not having its corporate offices in New York City, Chicago or Philadelphia. That drives me crazy. … I would love to see the business community stand up and say New Jersey is a wonderful place to do business, it’s a wonderful place to live, it’s got 8.5 million consumers and we should make a concerted effort to raise the visibility of our state and not simply just be in the shadows of New York City in North Jersey and Philadelphia in South Jersey.
NJBIZ: That’s easier said than done, right?
BO: It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take constant reminding and campaigns. We’re signed on for the long term, but I have to give a lot of credit to the Devils, because they’ve made this statement loud and clear. They’re not just simply looking to be some place to sell extra tickets, they really want to be an integrated citizen of the state.
NJBIZ: Being a good citizen is one thing, making money is another. Can you see you how this movement will help the bottom line for companies?
BO: It’s a long-term investment, but I think you can easily connect the dots. If you raise in a very positive and effective way the status of New Jersey, its environment from a business standpoint, the big business commitment to the consumers that live here … if you do all that, it’s easier and more readily possible to sell whatever product you’re selling.
If, in fact, you do become a promoter of New Jersey, which I happen to be in my heart — I think it’s a great place to live and work — if you do that and make that stick, whatever product or service you’re selling, you’re going to have better sales and engagement and traction because you did this. It may still be five physical quarters off, but I think there is going to be that kind of payback.
If you need a business reason to do it, then I think you can, without too much fudging or optimism, realistically say that all this is going to add to the strength of your business, add to the strength of your community and add to the strength of the state.
NJBIZ: You’ve said before that the state needs an upgrade in perception. Is that still the case?
BO: When I go on the road outside of New Jersey, I spend the first half-hour on everything from “The Sopranos” to our governor. No one is talking about the fact we are among the wealthiest states with great institutions. I gave a speech in Denver and we were talking about schools in New Jersey and someone said to me, ‘Is Princeton in New Jersey?’ So it strikes me that we don’t do a great job in trying to get past all the provocative glamour aspects of the Jersey Shore and the like and this is opportunity to do it.
NJBIZ: So let’s move forward. RWJBarnabas Health is all about New Jersey. Do you see other New Jersey companies increasing their focus to operating within the state limits?
BO: I think in previous eras, the business orientation of companies in New Jersey was to establish themselves as national players or mega-regional players to encourage business actively outside of New Jersey, directed at the company, which happened to be headquartered in New Jersey.
I think the new expansion is now subtly understood: If I can get everyone who lives in New Jersey to buy my product, I wouldn’t have to worry about sales in any other state. There’s now a B2B notion that if you have a strong company but you sit down and figure out you’re not getting a sufficient amount of retail and business-to-business activity from your colleagues from New Jersey, why not start there? I detect that’s happening.
NJBIZ: So, how can companies come together and make that work? Give one example.
BO: We have Jersey-based banks that tend to be edged out by banks that aren’t headquartered in New Jersey. Can you imagine what would happen if the people of New Jersey would only bank (with New Jersey banks). I’m not suggesting this is possible, but I bet if more people did certain things with New Jersey banks, they’d be bigger and stronger.