The next topic that I want to explore in this Summer Series Legislative Recap is that of the economic development initiatives I have sought to advance. My focus in this area is uncomplicated. We need an economic development agenda that is forward-thinking and allows innovation to advance while igniting investment, preparing our workforce to meet the challenges of the jobs of tomorrow and leading our economy towards a sustained path of inclusive economic prosperity. Sounds easy right?
My philosophy is not to seek to vilify those who we believe to be the culprits of New Jersey's current slow economic recovery. Rather, it is incumbent upon all policymakers to present a pragmatic blueprint designed to raise productivity and produce stronger future growth in the economy. The citizens we work for are less concerned about politicians pointing fingers at each other trying to assign blame for the current state of economic affairs. They are more interested in finding expanded employment opportunities to support their personal and family’s growth. And, that is my focus with regards to the policy initiatives that I have authored in this space.
Government plays an important role in helping to shape that aforementioned blueprint toward a more inclusive economy. An economy that promotes shared prosperity throughout all sectors and regions of our state. While the government doesn't create jobs, it does have a responsibility toward creating an environment where private enterprise and entrepreneurs want to locate and expand in our area. This will lead to the growth of our economy and the economic fortunes of New Jersey residents.
One area of particular focus of mine is in workforce development. Talk to most business people about their hiring needs and practices and the refrain is usually similar: “I can’t find enough qualified help.” I recall one of the first business tours that I went on as an elected official and the owner of the company told me that he had more than enough work to possibly double his existing workforce but did not have the qualified local workforce to meet his needs. So, he shipped much of the work to his other facility in another part of the country.
Workforce development is an oftentimes undervalued component of developing sustained economic growth. Here is one example of my approach towards investing in our state’s greatest resource, its human capital. A2190, directs the commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to establish a pilot program to assist certain unemployed and underemployed individuals in completing a career and technical education certificate program in 12 months.
Bemoaning the shortage of skilled help is one thing, but finding the root cause and fixing it is the solution. What makes this bill so appealing is that it serves both sides of the skilled workforce shortage issue. Understandably, employers don’t want to hire someone who lacks appropriate skills for the job. It is unproductive, costly and, depending on the tasks, it could be dangerous (manufacturing and construction, for example).
Would-be employees need confidence and assurance that they can do the job. Who hasn't wondered if he or she had the “right stuff” on the first day of the job, while they fought the butterflies that marked that important day? Moreover, because my proposal requires participants to complete the training program in 12 months, it adds two important positive attributes to the resume, which is especially important to a potential employee.
First, it demonstrates that the employee has initiative because they enrolled. Most employers are thrilled when an employee demonstrates this characteristic. Second, by putting a time limit on the program, it demonstrates focus and seriousness on the part of the student. Participants know the clock is ticking. It helps to keep them committed and on track. For employers, graduation signifies that sturdiness of the participants’ commitment.
Does this program solve all the workforce ills that we have? Of course not, and this is why my legislative agenda listed below is broad, covering an array of approaches to the problems we face. But I view this legislation, coupled with the proposals to grow the usuage of apprenticeship programs, as a hands-on solution that not only adds to the general economy but also assists those willing to work and learn. And, providing employers with the kind of worker talent and skills they need.
The list below provides some of the more significant initiatives that I have sponsored on this topic and are at the very heart of my economic development approach. You can easily review the initiatives I have undertaken by visiting my legislation page and simply entering the bill number. That’s my take, what’s yours?
A322 - Expands scope of New Jersey Regulatory Flexibility Act dealing with economic impact of rules on small businesses
A328 - Modifies certain provisions of New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) incentive programs and requires the NJEDA to provide report with review and analysis of those programs
A334 - Provides dedicated funding for promotion of apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs from Workforce Development Partnership Fund
A338 - Authorizes political subdivisions to require recipients of economic development incentives to enter into community benefits agreements
A2187 - Establishes green infrastructure financing program
A2190 - Directs Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to establish a pilot program to assist certain unemployed and underemployed individuals to complete a career and technical education certificate program in 12 months
A2193 - Requires Secretary of Higher Education, in consultation with various entities, to design a manufacturing career pathway to provide students with skills necessary to gain employment in manufacturing sector
A2226 - Establishes a manufacturing reinvestment account program to incentivize capital investment and workforce training in New Jersey with income tax rate reductions, deferrals and accelerated deductions
A2943 - Revises certain aspects of the New Jersey Individual Development Account Program
A3265 - Creates the New Jersey Advanced Manufacturing Council
A3273 - Establishes manufacturing machine and metal trade apprenticeships tax credit program
A3333 - Establishes microenterprise training program and assistance for microentrepreneurs; gives priority status to projects involving microenterprises under Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program
A4432 - Provides increased tax credit amounts under Grow New Jersey Assistance Program for certain businesses that have collaborative research relationships with colleges or universities
A5035 – Revises the tax credit transfer provisions for certain tax incentive programs and revises certain tax treatment of tax credit transfer certificates
AR64 - Urges Congress to enact “Credit Union Small Business Jobs Creation Act”