Whats the Matter with New Jersey?

In 1896, famed journalist William Allen White dashed off a quick-tempered editorial for the Emporia Gazette titled, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”Debbie Hart is president of BioNJ, which serves as the voice of the biotechnology industry in New Jersey. She can be reached at DHart@BioNJ.org.

In 1896, famed journalist William Allen White dashed off a quick-tempered editorial for the Emporia Gazette titled, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Published nationally, the editorial railed against populism and blamed progressive economic policies for everything he found wrong in Kansas. He must have been quite the curmudgeon because he had a long list.

Current and past headlines in New Jersey’s newspapers, and jokes and commentary on television and radio lead me to think we have a long-standing tradition of curmudgeons, too.

Some recent economic forecasts paint almost as gloomy a picture for our state as White did for Kansas. Perhaps using this as a cue, New Jersey bloggers and radio callers vent their wrath over everything from high property taxes to Parkway tolls.

At the risk of sounding naïve, I’d like to suggest we have been—and are being—too hard on ourselves. For all its faults—and there are faults—the quality of life, the culture and the economy are in better shape than some New Jerseyans will allow themselves to believe. Our state is still an amazing place to live and do business.

Quality of life is a subjective measure, but by almost any indication, New Jersey remains one of the more attractive sites for business. We offer strong public and private schools, excellent health care, an array of cultural offerings and diverse landscapes from shore to mountains.

These attractions require an investment, but produce a strong Return on Investment (ROI). As for affordability, New Jersey’s cost of living is significantly less than the New York and Philadelphia areas.

With the national economy in a downturn, it’s inevitable New Jersey will feel the impact. But for every forecast with a less than rosy outlook, there’s another survey that offers a more optimistic view.

Some facts are indisputable: New Jersey’s unemployment rate has been well below the national average for the past two years. Salaries and personal income growth are among the strongest in the region. And we’re growing jobs at a faster rate than a year ago.

I can speak most strongly to what I see in the state’s biotechnology sector, which has experienced significant growth over the past decade. The number of companies choosing to start in or relocate to New Jersey continues to grow, bringing good jobs and high-caliber people who contribute to the social fabric of our state.

So, what’s the matter with New Jersey? By many measures, we’re doing pretty well. This Jersey girl will continue to work with the private and public sectors to strengthen our life science resources. Most of all, I will remember the quote from another famous Kansan whose words are remembered much better than William Allen White’s: “There’s no place like home …. there’s no place like home … there’s no place like home.”

NJBIZ Business Events

General Counsel Awards 2020

Wednesday, August 12, 2020
General Counsel Awards 2020

ICON Honors Awards Program 2020

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Best Places to Work 2020

Thursday, September 17, 2020
Best Places to Work 2020