Many businesses in New Jersey have complained for years about a ‘business unfriendly’ environment, from high taxes to copious regulations. The Murphy administration says they’ve heard and responded to such complaints with a new ‘Jersey means business’ campaign that includes expanded State support resources for businesses. With the recent start of the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 and a fresh round of business loans and grants coming up from this spring, now’s a good time to look at these resources that can help your business:
- The best place to start is business.nj.gov, which provides a comprehensive introduction to state business support programs and walks you through each business planning and launch step.
- The New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC) is a business-first resource that can help you get answers from government agencies, direct you to appropriate officials or contacts, facilitate meetings and follow-ups with regulatory agencies and more, all at no cost and strictly confidential. It offers specific services to small businesses, mid- to large businesses, export-focused businesses, and even non-profits. NJBAC also operates a toll-free call-in Business Helpline at 1-800-JERSEY7.
- The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) offers a variety of small business support programs, including a MicroBusiness Loan ($50K at 2% interest and balance of loan forgiven after 5 years), a popular Business Improvement Grant, an Entrepreneur Support Program, direct loans, and more. You should regularly check NJEDA’s website to get notified of program opening dates and requirements. Advance preparation of your application is paramount and can require up to six weeks in advance of application-open date. Once applications start to be accepted, competition is fierce and the most popular programs are often over-subscribed the same day they open, often within mere hours after opening.
- The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (NJDCA) has some local business support programs, although most of their programs are focused at the municipal level. Find their grant opportunities at https://www.nj.gov/dca/dhcr/grants/index.shtml.
- There are also dedicated resources and favorable consideration for ‘protected’ classes built into many state programs, and we always advise our clients to note these and any ‘sympathy points’ in their applications in the space provided. Specifically, there are support resources in the state and/or set-aside program allocations for minority- and women-owned businesses, veterans, LGBT+ business owners, and the disabled. Support for these groups is also available from various statewide affinity Chambers of Commerce.
- Demographic information such as local household income and age distribution can be key in business siting decisions. A rich treasure trove of demographic information is available for your free use at censusreporter.org.
- The non-profit New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) network provides comprehensive assistance to small and medium businesses (SMBs) to maximize opportunities for growth and generate economic impact statewide. Get free, hands-on counseling from NJSBDC experts who work with you until you have fulfilled your business goals.
The intention of these programs is ‘a hand up, not a handout.’ For additional perspective, it should be noted that the money allocated to these local business support programs is a tiny fraction of both state and Federal budgets–and is notably dwarfed by the generous subsidies provided to industrial agribusinesses, oil and gas concerns, and large manufacturers like Tesla.