Recapping the ReNew Jersey Summit & Expo

By Dr. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, DBA, CMA, CGMA, CFE, City University of New York-Lehman College – April 10, 2024
Recapping the ReNew Jersey Summit & Expo

In late March, the business, political and academic communities of New Jersey convened at Harrah’s in Atlantic City in what has become a post-COVID tradition. Over the course of the two-day ReNew Jersey Summit & Expo hosted by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, leaders and policymakers discussed issues, opportunities, challenges and new potential avenues for business growth. With nearly 1,000 people in attendance, including Governor Murphy, the Summit represented a proverbial who’s-who of Jersey business and policy circles.

As a member of the NJCPA Board of Trustees and a New Jersey CPA Political Action Committee Trustee, the opportunity to attend and meet/network with the business community during this event was impossible to turn down.

So, what exactly goes on at events like this, why is it important for CPAs to be involved and what are some trends that practitioners should be aware of moving forward? Let’s take a look.

At any event like ReNew Jersey, the usual individuals and represented interests are present, with the usual list of comments, problems and proposed solutions. Some of the key players that were present at the event included the CEO of PSE&G, the CEO of J&J, as well as representatives from Princeton University and NJIT. Also, the panels included several key people from the policy side, including the head of the Economic Development Authority and several of the potential gubernatorial candidates for 2025. Other headline people and events included the CEO of the Gateway project, an update on the status of the winning bid to host the 2026 World Cup finale, and an uplifting presentation documenting the rise and success story of Jersey Mike’s.

Digging a little deeper into the event, there were a couple of themes that permeated the wide range of panels and fireside chats.

The Business Case for New Jersey Is Much Improved

Being named the most improved in any category can be a distinction that comes with mixed feelings. Improvement is always good, but being most-improved also highlights how significant past challenges were; with New Jersey vaulting from 42nd to 19th on the CNBC America’s Top State for Business rankings, there was certainly plenty to discuss. Reasons for the rise included the traditional strengths that the state has relied on to market itself: intellectual capital, geographic proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, and a diversified economy that continues to attract innovators and entrepreneurs.

Additional talking points that might be of interest to the CPA community include comments from Withum CEO (Emeritus) Bill Hagaman, who succinctly made the following case: while the cost of doing business in New Jersey is high, the benefits taxpayers receive are well worth it. These include the fact that the state has led the region in job creation, housing prices have increased (although sometimes too quickly), manufacturing jobs are on the rise and we have the number-one public school system in the country.

CPA takeaway: For all of the negative soundbites that exist about U-Hauls and people leaving the state, the reality is that the underlying economics continue to improve, and people have noticed.

New Industries Are Set to Drive Growth

Playing up the theme of investing in innovation and entrepreneurial activity, there were several panel discussions — and topics carried throughout the event — highlighting the new businesses and industries positioned to drive the state economy forward. Notable mentions of these emerging fields included the focus on AI from government, academia and the private sector; massive investments set to start flowing for film and TV studios; and the major investments being made in both wind and solar power.

What all of these industries have in common is that they are set to reshape major parts of the economy in both New Jersey and the nation at large. For example, the state has integrated some automation and process improvements via the site, which is touted as a one-stop-shop for forms, permits and inventive information. Additionally, the Innovation Evergreen Fund continues to serve as a source of capital for start-ups and entrepreneurs, and Trenton MOVES serves as an example of how autonomous vehicles for public transit might first hit the roads in Trenton.

There are certainly concerns over the effects of new industries that were addressed as well. The film industry, for example, is going to require incentives and years to deliver the promised economic benefits. Offshore wind projects continue to face opposition, even with large installations approved, and AI will pose a challenge to educators, business owners and policymakers for years to come.

CPA takeaway: Regardless of the opinion any practitioner or client has on a certain industry, there are going to be economic benefits and incentives that clients will need to know about.

CPAs are, of course, impacted by the business situations of our clients, which is why it is even more important than ever before that we, as a profession, are active participants in conversations and events like ReNew Jersey.

Many thanks to the NJCPA for allowing me to participate in such a robust and informative event.