Good news: There’s been a wholesale transformation of New Jersey’s economy | Opinion –


By Tim Sullivan

You might have missed it amid the holiday rush, but 2021 ended with some incredibly positive economic news: for the third quarter, the Garden State ranked fourth in Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, growth. Not fourth in the region, or fourth among states that start with “New” in their name — fourth in the nation.

Economists describe GDP as a calculation of the size of a given economy, and New Jersey grew faster than states that critics often point to as role models — places like Texas, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which published this data, New Jersey’s strong performance was fueled by notable growth in core industries like finance, professional services, and manufacturing.

This top-five ranking is particularly remarkable given our state’s recent history – in the eight years prior to Gov. Phil Murphy taking office, New Jersey ranked 47th in the U.S. in GDP growth. And this GDP data follows other recent data indicating New Jersey is regaining its market share in venture capital dollars invested in the state, as well as outpacing the region and the country for new business formation.

Gov. Murphy has often talked about New Jersey as “the ultimate turnaround story”— and this is evidence of a heck of a turnaround.

This incredible data confirms something that was already evident, particularly in the second half of 2021: Gov. Murphy’s strategy of diversifying our by focusing on growing major new industries and bolstering existing sectors of strength is paying off in a big way.

  • Construction has started at the NJ Wind Port in Salem County, which, along with other critical investments, is positioning New Jersey to be the capital of the American offshore wind industry. Offshore wind is a sector poised to create tens of thousands of jobs in manufacturing, construction, and operations.
  • Fortune 250-ranked financial technology firm Fiserv announced it will create 2,000 new jobs in Berkeley Heights.
  • One of the world’s leading venture capital firms, SOSV Ventures, announced that Newark won a nationwide competition to host its latest major start-up accelerator location — called HAX Newark. This landmark project will focus on cleantech/decarbonization hardware manufacturing and is expected to launch 100 companies creating 2,500 new jobs in the state’s largest city.
  • Rutgers announced it will make the state’s largest-ever investment in applied and translational research as part of the Innovation Hub project being built in New Brunswick, which will also include a new downtown home for Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School adjacent to a new leading global Cancer Institute. It will position New Brunswick to lead a renaissance of New Jersey’s life sciences sector to solve intractable health issues and develop new therapies for currently-incurable diseases.
  • New Jersey’s Film & Television sector reported $500 million in production in 2021, a more than five-fold increase from 2017, and Gov. Murphy cut the ribbon on the first new major studio facility built in decades in the state.
  • New Jersey’s No. 1 ranking for sports betting has led to the creation of more than 1,000 new technology, cybersecurity, and financial technology jobs that are supporting the explosive growth of this global sector.
  • The legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis is poised to create hundreds of new enterprises and thousands of jobs.

Taken together this unprecedented growth in new and growing sectors like clean energy, financial technology, film and television, sports betting, and cannabis — as well as major momentum in state hallmarks like innovation and life sciences — represents nothing less than the wholesale transformation of the state’s economy.

Of course, despite this momentum, we know that New Jersey’s still isn’t where it needs to be. Our Main Street businesses (particularly Black, Latino, veteran and women-owned businesses) are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, and our urban centers and communities of color still suffer unacceptable inequities in poverty, employment and wealth.

And so as we begin the second term of Gov. Murphy’s administration, we will continue to make major investments as part of his comprehensive economic development strategy that will both continue our momentum but also ensure that the opportunities provided by our growing are available to everyone in our state.

In early 2022, we will launch new initiatives to support our Main Street businesses and micro-businesses with new grant and loan programs, as well as a Black and Latino Seed Fund to address startling inequalities in early-stage venture capital available to diverse entrepreneurs. The game-changing Innovation Evergreen Fund – a $500 million public/private partnership designed to transform New Jersey’s innovation economy – will launch and begin investing in promising new companies poised to create thousands of jobs.

We will launch an initiative to support the vital childcare sector in making investments in facilities and equipment. Additionally, we will launch a new financing program designed to catalyze investments in mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented development projects (the NJ Aspire program) as well as new programs to address food deserts and food insecurity, redevelopment of historically significant buildings as well as legacy industrial properties known as brownfields. And, finally, we will continue our efforts to support the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing.

Despite ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, New Jersey’s economic momentum is as strong as it has been in decades – and with the vision and strategy being implemented by Gov. Murphy, I am confident our brightest days still lie ahead.

The investments being made today in our communities and in the industries of the future will mean that New Jersey will be home to stronger communities and more good jobs for our families and our children.

Tim Sullivan is CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

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