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On the heels of the first Affordability Summit where serious issues about New Jersey’s economic future were presented, Opportunity New Jersey (ONJ) has released its white paper analysis of the event to the state’s gubernatorial candidates, Legislature and current Administration with an urgent call for a comprehensive state strategic plan for a more affordable New Jersey.

“The time for action is now,” said ONJ co-chairs Tom Bracken and Michele Siekerka. “We had incredibly constructive dialogue about how to make New Jersey more affordable and regionally competitive at our summit. We came away knowing that New Jersey needs a long-term, sustainable plan that will address the overriding issues that have limited our economic growth.

“We look forward to working with the incoming executive leadership and the Legislature on the development of this plan. Our residents and businesses will need their proactive vision and leadership so we can all afford to live and work in our great state.”

Hundreds of residents, business, education and nonprofit leaders attended the Affordability Summit on Sept. 18 at the First Baptist Church at Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, which featured a keynote address by former New Jersey Secretary of State Rev. DeForest Soaries, as well as presentations from Steve Van Kuiken (Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company); Dr. James W. Hughes (University Professor and former Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University) and Tom Byrne (Founder and Managing Director of Byrne Asset Management). Lieutenant Governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno also spoke at the event.

While New Jersey has seen a large spike in private sector job growth since the recession, the determination made by many presenters and attendees at the summit is that the state has fallen well behind other states in economic growth and opportunity. Based on the data and input presented at the forum, ONJ is outlining four major initiatives in its white paper, which can be found here, for which a state strategic plan should be devised. They are:

  • TAX REFORM & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: We must reform New Jersey’s tax structure to be fair, equitable, and competitive with states within our region and those looking to attract our companies and our residents.


  • INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENT: We must engage in comprehensive long-term infrastructure planning and investment across all critical infrastructure.


  • WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AND JOBS: We must ensure that New Jersey’s current and future workers are workforce ready with technical and employability skills being articulated throughout the education life cycle and beyond.


  • REGULATORY/POLICY MAKING REFORM: We must ensure a policy making process that targets responsible economic growth and removes unnecessary regulatory hurdles.

“What was made clear at our summit is we cannot afford anything less than an aggressive and urgent approach to making us more affordable and competitive,” said Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. “We must better leverage our best-in-class assets and location. We can, and must, do better to give our businesses and residents a chance to thrive.

“We look forward to have constructive, non-partisan dialogue with our state leadership for the good of our state. As Rev. Soaries said on the day, ‘Solutions come to government, not from it.’ This document is a starting point from which we will work with our leaders on solutions.”

The white paper is derived from a live, working document started during the Affordability Summit. Opportunity New Jersey continues to encourage continued dialogue and will accept additions and revisions from members of the public. Interested parties who would still like to submit suggestions on how to make New Jersey affordable, can do so here.

Reports and power point presentations by Steve Van Kuiken, Dr. James W. Hughes and Tom Byrne, which helped drive recommendations for the white paper can be found here.

For a copy of NJBIA’s outmigration report, visit here.

OpportunityNJ (ONJ) is a non-partisan, grassroots coalition dedicated to promoting action to make New Jersey more competitive and affordable for everyone. With no direct ties to political parties or government, ONJ serves as an independent voice to provide data-based education about New Jersey policy actions – and to support policies that encourage job growth, affordability and prosperity in the state.

Media interested in speaking with Michele Siekerka or Tom Bracken should reach out to Bob Considine at or Scott Goldstein at