Business leaders, Cavuto agree: Christie’s off to a good start

NEWARK – Gov. Chris Christie led a business roundtable hosted by FOX Business Network personality Neil Cavuto today, and the governor and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno basked in praise for their efforts across the state, especially more recently in Atlantic City.

Cavuto called New Jersey the Rodney Dangerfield of states – no respect. But the business execs said the story is changing since Christie took over.

“People have a much different view now,” said Stephen Holmes, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels, which are headquartered in Parsippany and employ 1,600 statewide.

From his first days in office, Christie was trying to retain jobs and businesses, said Katherine Adams, Honeywell International senior vice president.

The tech company was receiving “very attractive offers” from unnamed states to relocate their headquarters from Morristown when Adams approached the days-old administration.
“You said, ‘Give me a week and we are going to figure this out,’ ” she said of the governor.

He corroborated, “It’s true. It was shocking to the lieutenant governor and I – no one had been, for the last eight years, proactively reaching out to businesses.”
He started making scheduled reach-out calls to CEOs as soon as possible after taking office. “They have the lieutenant governor’s cell phone number or they have my direct dial number at the Statehouse,” Christie said.

He gave credit to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Texas Gov. Rick Perry for their pro-business initiatives.

It’s true of Guadagno’s phone number, according to Drew Murphy, executive vice president of NRG Energy, but it’s not like the administration is promising some kind of economic support to business, he said. More so, the promise is of stability and long-term growth together.

Present at the Rutgers Business School panel discussion today were Kevin DeSanctis, president of Revel, and Robert Griffin, CEO of Trump Resorts Entertainment, both of whom praised the governor for moving an Atlantic City district under the purview of the state in order to expedite investment and development.
New Jersey is also providing $260 million in financing to Revel for infrastructure improvements paving the way for a $2.5 billion, 53-story main attraction casino-hotel to be finished by 2012.

As soon as Christie announced his state intervention, Griffin said one of the biggest developers in the country called him to talk about coming to Atlantic City.
“This is a discussion that the governor started,” Griffin said of the economy-friendly reform Christie is working. “It’s a home run for South Jersey.”

David Schwartz, Toys R Us executive vice president, said Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration was less attentive over four years than Christie’s regime has been in one year.
He also cautioned about states like Illinois, whose labeling laws are making toy production nearly impossible for the company. Regulation should be thoughtful and with businesses in mind, he said.

As Christie gathered around the table to allow business leaders to laud his victories from the executive seat, the Democratic legislature – who are working on a job creation package of their own – bemoaned the handshakes and silver tongues.

“Instead of polishing his national conservative credentials by appearing with big business leaders on Fox, the Governor should head back to Trenton and sign the 30 bills on his desk that would actually do something to help businesses large and small create jobs and get the economy moving,” said state Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford).

Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) said, “Democrats were way ahead of the governor in recognizing that jobs and the economy are of vital importance to the people of New Jersey. That’s why we took strong action to jumpstart our economy with a sweeping legislative package to spark job creation.”

Business leaders, Cavuto agree: Christie’s off to a good start