5 Tips to Get Ready for Your First Business Loan

by Maria Nieves, President & CEO, Hudson County Chamber of Commerce

Our mission is to be a leading resource for our Members. We know that access to capital is one of the most critical needs of a small business on the verge of growth. For this month’s newsletter, we researched tips to help our Members who are considering applying for that first loan. Get ready with these 5 tips.

#1: What Are Lenders Looking For? Most lenders will want to know that you can repay the loan plus interest, and that you can do so regularly. They’ll also likely want the loan to be secured. So get very specific about how much money you need to borrow and how long you’ll need to pay the loan back. See this Fox Business News entitled How to Apply for Your First Business Loan.

smallbizloanpicture#2A: Build Your Personal Credit Score Lenders will want to look not just at the credit score of your business, but also your personal credit score.  Your personal credit score ranges from 300 to 850 (the higher, the better), and evaluates your ability to repay your personal debts, such as credit cards, car loans and a mortgage. The FICO score, commonly used in lending decisions, is based on five factors: your payment history (35% of your score), the amounts owed on credit cards and other debt (30%), how long you’ve had credit (15%), types of credit in use (10%) and recent credit inquiries (10%). You can get a copy of your credit reports for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com and dispute any inaccuracies you find through each of the credit bureaus’ websites (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). If you find any errors, you’ll want to dispute them to improve your credit score.

#2B: Build Your Business Credit Score Forty-five percent of small-business borrowers who are turned down by a creditor are denied because of their credit scores, according to the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Atlanta, Cleveland and Philadelphia. There are several credit bureaus that collect data and create business credit scores, including Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax.  You’ll want to maintain a score with all three, because a lender can use any of these bureaus to pull your business credit score. You’re also advised to make sure you pay any creditors on time, and borrow loans from lenders that report to credit bureaus. In fact, borrowing a small loan and paying it back on time from such a lender, can help build your business credit score. See this article from Nerd Wallet for more tips on building your business credit score.

#3: Consider a MicroLoan to Start Building Your Business Credit Consider taking a microloan with the Small Business Administration. The SBA offers loans for businesses to purchase new machinery and equipment, or make improvements like landscaping. Additionally, if you need to renovate your existing office or facility, these funds can help. They offer a microloan program that caps amounts at $50,000. Click here to learn more about the SBA. Here in Hudson County, the Hudson County EDC has a microloan program that also caps loan amounts at $50,000. The Hudson EDC Microloan Program offers fixed-rate (5.0% – 9.5%), six-year loans with as little as 10% down for start-up and existing businesses. Businesses in operation for less than two years can borrow a maximum of $35,000; older business with a profitable operating history are eligible for up to $50,000. There are no prepayment penalties. Click here to see their full suite of loan programs.

#4: Get Your Information Together In addition to solid business and personal credit scores, you’ll need  solid business plan, a strong personal resume (to prove your credible), a strategic marketing plan, and a P&L statement, which is also known as the income statement.  Your P&L statement is a summary of the profit and losses that your business has incurred during a particular time period. Basically, it’s revenue in, less expenses incurred. The SBA has a Business Loan Checklist to help you assemble the needed documents for applying.

#5: Get Help There are many online resources and agencies like the SBA and Hudson County EDC. If you need help connecting to them, let us know. We’d be glad to connect you. Finally, you may also want to consider taking a workshop like our upcoming Next Level Business Planning, a six-week intensive course that can help you put together a business plan and marketing plan.
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From the Halls of Trenton: Battle Brews Over Horizon Blue’s Reserve Fund

No real surprises: it’ll be Democrat Phil Murphy, a former U.S. Ambassador in the Obama administration, versus NewJersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno on the Republican side.by Hoboken Strategy Group

June is here.  The Spring pollen season is coming to a close, which equals less tissues and cleaner cars. The days are getting warmer and longer.  For those of us in the Halls of Trenton, June is shaping up to offer a lot of long days.

statecapAs a loyal From the Halls reader, you know how important this year and this month are.  With the Governor’s Office and all 120 seats in the Legislature up for grabs in November and a balanced State Budget due by June 30- there are a lot of wheels in motion.  On June 6, New Jersey voters headed to the polls to decide who will represent their respective parties on the November ballot. No real surprises: voters have chosen Democrat Phil Murphy, a former U.S. Ambassador in the Obama administration, and  New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno on the Republican side.

With Republican Governor Chris Christie term-limited from seeking another term, political observers are closely watching the Republican and Democratic Gubernatorial Primaries.  On the Republican side, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is seeking to replace her former running mate.  The Lieutenant Governor is being challenged by Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), Nutley Commissioner Steven Rogers, and political newcomers Joseph Rullo and Hirsh Singh.  For the Democrats, voters will choose between former Ambassador Phil Murphy, Senator Raymond Lesniak, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Tenafly Borough Councilman Mark Zinna, former Under Secretary of Treasury Jim Johnson and activist Bill Brennan.

The other focus of this month will be the consideration of the State Budget.  Legislators and the Governor will face a projected $527 million budget shortfall which must be filled for a balanced budget.  The administration has announced that roughly $300 million to in funding to local governments to cover Homestead property-tax relief credits will be delayed until the next Fiscal Year.  The remaining shortfall will be plugged using budget surplus funds as well as the State’s Clean Energy Fund.

The administration has also announced that the 2018 Fiscal Year revenue forecast will be increased by $200 million through a series of new tax collection initiatives enacted by the Department of Treasury.  These initiatives include the implementation of a process for collecting overdue taxes which includes more aggressive audits and the targeting of tax delinquents.  This increased revenue forecast is good news for the State given the recent reductions to the sales tax as well as the phasing out of the estate tax.

Another proposal to be considered as a part of the budget process is the Governor’s plan to dedicate lottery revenue to the State’s pension system.  The Governor has lauded this proposal as a dedicated source of revenue after decades of underfunding by both Republican and Democratic administrations.  In recently released details, this proposal includes the dedication of the Lottery Enterprise to the Public Employees Retirement System, the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund and the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System for a period of 30 years.  If enacted, lottery revenue would generate a predicted $36.5 billion to the pension funds over 30 years.  This proposal would drop the State’s unfunded liability in the pension funds from their current $49 billion deficit and result in the funds being 58.9% funded from the current level of 44.7%.

Currently, lottery revenue is directed to the General Fund and dedicated towards higher education programs, psychiatric hospitals, center for people with developmental disabilities and homes to disabled soldiers.  If the plan is enacted, these programs would be funded directly through the State Budget.  According to State Treasurer Ford Scudder, if the pension payment receives a dedicated source of revenue other than annual State Budget appropriations, additional funding will be available in the Budget to be dedicated towards these purposes.

The real battle to watch will be on the Governor’s plan to tap $300 million in funding from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s financial reserves to be dedicated towards the creation of a fund for drug treatment programs in the State.  Since proposing the plan during his State Budget address, the Governor has waged a public campaign to urge support for his proposal including the questioning of Horizon’s non-profit status as well as the salaries of their leadership.  Horizon has been quick to defend their operations as well as the purpose of their financial reserves which equate to 75 days cash on hand to pay claims for its 3.8 million insured.

Last week, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto stated that “there is no appetite” in the Assembly to advance the legislation.  During the Assembly Budget Committee’s hearing on the Department of Banking & Insurance, Committee Chairman Gary Schaer (D-36) expressed his concerns that if the State took $300 million from Horizon’s reserves, the fund would have to be replenished, likely through increasing the cost of premiums to policyholders.  On the Senate side, Senator Joseph Vitale, Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services & Senior Citizens Committee has stated that he has yet to decide on whether he will sponsor the proposal.  But hey, it’s June in Trenton and a lot can happen, so stay tuned!

On the good news front, Governor Christie recently announced that the State’s unemployment rate has dropped to 4.1 percent, the lowest that it has been at any time since 2001.  Considering that New Jersey’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent when the Governor took office in January 2010, this has been a steady improvement for the State’s economy.

Another positive development since our last issue is that the Legislature approved the Governor’s proposed $400 million in extra spending for transportation projects this fiscal year.  For Hudson County, this supplemental appropriation has provided funding for projects include:

  • Viaduct repair/reconstruction along Route 495 in North Bergen;
  • Bridge deck and approach repairs on Route 280 in East Newark;
  • Re-surfacing of Route 185 in Jersey City;
  • Drainage reconstruction and paving of West Side Avenue in North Bergen
  • Preliminary engineering and final design for the NJ Transit Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Route 440 Extension in Jersey City
  • Completion of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Northern Branch Extension

Well, it’s June and we are government relations professionals, so we have to get back to work.  We will be back over the Summer reporting from a beach chair with an icy libation in hand and bring you up to speed on all of the June excitement that occurred in June in and around the Halls of Trenton!

Hoboken Strategy Group is a boutique New Jersey government relations and business development firm made up of public affairs professionals with years of experience handling legislative and regulatory challenges on the local, state and federal levels.  Kay Elizabeth LiCausi, President of Hoboken Strategy Group, serves on the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce.  Michael J. Comba serves as Vice President of Hoboken Strategy Group.  Special thanks to our Summer Intern, Alexis Bailey, on her contributions to this edition.  Alexis is a rising Sophomore at Rider University.  They can be reached online at www.hobokenstrategy.com and on Facebook at Hoboken Strategy Group.

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HarrisonRand Know-How: The 5 Types of Video You Should Be Thinking About Right Now

by Jason Rand, HarrisonRand

The first thing I did this morning was scroll through my Instagram feed, its like a shot of espresso and gives my brain a visual jolt to get it going. In my feed was a sponsored Kickstarter video for a product called “Gravity”, a weighted blanket that claims to provide a more restful sleep by activating pressure points throughout the body, it was nicely executed, well timed and engaging. When I clicked through to the landing page, the campaign had raised over $4.4 million. Welcome to the new marketing power of video.

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What would you read about in Jason’s next post? Email your suggestions to jason@harrisonrand.com

Online video content has skyrocketed, making up 80% of all Internet traffic in 2017. Video increases conversion and engagement rates more than any other content and is the #1 way to capture the attention of your market. Good video will keep your audiences happy and visitors to your site will stay longer all while giving your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) a big boost due to Google’s higher ranking of sites with deeper engagement. So whether you’re a small or large business, start-up or not-for-profit thinking about video, you’ll want to consider all the places your content will be, who your audience is and what you want them to learn and do after watching it.

#1 The Testimonial Video

Innovative businesses like Amazon and Yelp! have transformed testimonials into powerful marketing tools that build communities around products and experiences. Testimonial videos have that same ability to convert by delivering compelling and authentic messaging about your brand in a more dynamic way. Preparation is the key to a quality outcome so think about who you’ll be featuring in your video and why. Also important to consider are feelings and thoughts you want your audience to take away from watching. Draft a series of questions, some serious and maybe some fun, that really explore the who, what, where and why of your business’ unique selling proposition.

#2 The Storytelling Video:

This approach is similar to a testimonial, but is more focused on the sharing of a personal and transformative story, providing deeper insight into a brand experience and eliciting an emotional response from the audience. This type of approach is particularly effective in the healthcare and educational sectors which face tough competition and rely on patient or student outcomes to differentiate their organizations and provide proof of excellence. As in the testimonial video approach, making this strategy work best for your brand requires preparation and the selection of the right subjects to help tell your story.

#3 The “About Us” Video

I think it’s fair to say that reading bios and Linkedin profiles is not one of the more exciting online activities. The reality is, much of this writing starts to sound the same after awhile. So think about producing a unique video which allows your audience to “meet” your team in a different way. Short introductions, interesting, fun facts, a day at your business, all help your message to break through the noise and differentiate your brand personality by engaging with your audience in a warm, fun, new and different way.

#4 The Virtual Reality Video

VR (Virtual Reality) is fast becoming THE marketing industry buzzword for sectors like Real Estate where tenants and buyers are often only presented with computer generated renderings of lobbies, apartments and amenities while the property is being constructed. A VR video tour is next level marketing for companies who wish to immerse their audiences in a total brand experience anywhere they choose.

#5 The Facebook Live Video

One of the newest and hottest trends to hit the social video world is Facebook Live (and IG stories) and allows users to engage with brands and businesses in real time. The many benefits and applications of the “Live” sessions feature are still being explored online, but consider a live Q&A, tour, event or demo. Be sure to add an description of your content and invite engagement from your audience often. Experimenting with new and different approaches will keep your audiences coming back for more and help spread the word.

Simply put, we’re living in a dynamic age of change and video is leading the way as the king of content and dramatically reshaping the marketing landscape for businesses of every type and scale. Get into it and you’ll be richly rewarded.

Jason Rand is Creative Director of HarrisonRand, a third generation family owned business in Hudson County and Member of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce. Please let Jason know how it goes and what you’d like to see in his next post: email him at Jason@HarrisonRand.com

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From the Halls of Trenton: State Budget, Lottery Revenues and New Jersey’s Pension Plan

by Hoboken Strategy Group

2017 is turning out to be a busy year in the Halls of Trenton, but hey, it’s New Jersey! Would you have expected anything less than that?

Aside from legislative business, 2017 is an election year in New Jersey with all 80 seats in the General Assembly, 40 seats in the Senate and the Governor’s Office all up for grabs.  Governor Chris Christie is nearing the end of his second term, so New Jersey will have a new Governor in January 2018.  Both the Democrats and Republicans currently each have contested primaries on who from each party will square off in the 2017 Gubernatorial General Election.  Get ready for an action-packed year!

Legislators were welcomed back to Trenton in January and kicked-off the year with statecapGovernor Christie’s State of the State on January 10.  The focus of the Governor’s speech highlighted success in several areas including lowering taxes, creating jobs and reclaiming lives.  The Governor hailed the administration’s accomplishments in reducing the State’s tax burden including a reduction in the State’s Sales Tax, an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, the phasing out of the elimination of the Estate Tax well as an increase in the State Income Tax exclusion on pension and retirement income.  Governor Christie further touted the State’s success economic growth and job creation during his administration.  Throughout the past seven years, the State has seen consecutive private-sector job growth with 278,000 jobs created since the Governor took office.  For the second straight year, a record number of new businesses filed with the Division of Revenues and Enterprise Services with 103,000 new businesses filed in 2016 and 97,800 new businesses filed in 2015.  The State has also seen home sales increase of 15 percent and unemployment falling to 5 percent, down 4.8 percent since January 2010 when the Governor took office.

Governor Christie also called for the advancement of the State’s fight against the opioid addiction epidemic.  Citing the State’s success in the fight including a  financial commitment of over $127 million to increase mental health and substance use treatment rates and expanding access to care as well as the creation of the Recovery Coach Program to aid overdose survivors, the Governor said there is more to be done.  The Governor called the Legislature to action and by February 15, the State enacted the nation’s strongest addiction recovery reform.  The Governor and Legislature enacted a law requiring insurance coverage for treatment of a substance abuse disorder and the elimination of any coverage waiting period.  The law also reduces the prior 30-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions down to a 5-day limit to avoid deadly and habit-forming gateway drugs from getting into the hands of children and the vulnerable.

The Governor returned to the Assembly Chamber at the end of February to deliver his Budget Address to a Joint Session of the Legislature.  The Governor’s proposed $35.5 billion State Budget plan includes no new tax increases or tax cuts, while holding the line on funding in areas such as property tax relief, municipal aid, public schools, and funding for higher education.

Citing the State’s reauthorization of the Transportation Trust Fund in 2016, the Governor called for a “jumpstart” in the State’s investment in addressing bridge deficiencies and the state of good repair for roads statewide.  The Governor proposed a $400 million supplemental appropriation to allow the Department of Transportation to deliver the largest construction program in state history.  This supplemental appropriation would need to be approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in order to become a reality.

Governor Christie also called upon the Legislature to overhaul the state’s school aid formula in the next 100 days.  While Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto have each been conducting hearings across the State on the issue, the Governor added an aggressive timeline to advance a proposal.  The Governor said, “I will make a pledge…to work with the leaders of the legislature to come up with a new funding formula. Everything is on the table. No idea is out of bounds for discussion. I am willing to work with you to solve this problem without any pre-conditions on the ideas brought to the table.”  While willing to compromise, the Governor also promised to “act alone” if forced to.

The Governor’s Budget intends to abide by a recent law that calls for the State’s pension contributions to be made in quarterly installments rather than one larger payment at the end of the fiscal year.  The proposed $2.5 billion pension contribution in FY18 would be a record for the State in one fiscal year.  However, the overall contribution would fall short of the roughly $5 billion contribution recommended by actuaries to restore the pension system.

Speaking of pensions, Governor Christie also proposed redirecting lottery revenues to “eligible pension plans.”  The full details of this plan have yet to be released, but the Governor suggested that the State Lottery could be better utilized to fund the pension system.  Currently, the nearly $1 billion in lottery proceeds are used towards programs that assist disabled veterans, college students and the developmentally disabled.  Any change in the current lottery system would require the enactment of legislation.

The Governor also called upon Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield, New Jersey’s largest health insurance provider, to create a charitable fund utilizing its $2.9 billion surplus that could be used to support drug treatment efforts for those without health coverage as well as other services for vulnerable residents who access Charity Care and Medicaid.  The Governor called upon Horizon to embrace the establishment of a permanent fund that would dedicate Horizon’s annual surplus towards tackling public health crises.  Governor Christie said, “As the sole insurer with this unique non-profit status and historically charitable mission, Horizon shares in the financial obligation of caring for our most vulnerable citizens…”  Horizon officials were quick to respond to the Governor’s proposal and the characterization of an “abundant surplus,” instead referring to the funds as a reserve fund of $2.4 billion.  In a statement, Horizon noted that the reserves only have “enough to cover 75 days of claims or just a single day of hospital care for every person Horizon ensures.”  Horizon also suggested that the Legislature enact a law that limits surprise out-of-network billing practices, which costs the company around $1 billion annually.

The Legislature will be out on Budget Recess in mid-March and begin deliberation on the State Budget including public hearings as well as opportunities for each State department and agency to present their budget proposals for the next fiscal year.  The Senate and Assembly Budget Committees will then develop a budget proposal which must be approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor by the end of the Fiscal Year (June 30).  Stay tuned because budget season promises to heat things up under the Golden Dome and you can count on us to be there and fill you in on all of the action!

Hoboken Strategy Group is a boutique New Jersey government relations and business development firm made up of public affairs professionals with years of experience handling legislative and regulatory challenges on the local, state and federal levels.  Kay Elizabeth LiCausi, President of Hoboken Strategy Group, serves on the Government Affairs Committee for the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce.  Michael J. Comba serves as Vice President of Hoboken Strategy Group.  They can be reached online at www.hobokenstrategy.com and on Facebook at Hoboken Strategy Group.

 

 

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HarrisonRand Know-How: Thinking for Mobile – 5 Trends for 2017

by Jason Rand, HarrisonRand

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What would you like to read about in Jason’s next post? Email your suggestions to jason@harrisonrand.com

For many of us, we start our days reaching for the mobile phone to turn off the alarm feature, read a notification about Trump’s latest tweet or check the weather or email. Mobile has now become a “hub,” enabling overall connectivity for consumers and opening doors to the internet-of-things, mobile payments, virtual reality and beyond.

By this year’s end, 75 percent of online content consumption will be mobile according to AdAge.  Still, many businesses, both large and small, are struggling with how to engage audiences to provide a richer, more unique mobile experience.

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when moving into mobile and how thinking for mobile, can help focus your efforts.

#1 Mobile Mentality

When designing your banner ads, websites, Instagram posts and emails, think bold, clean and easy to read with a clear call to action. Hectic schedules and an on-the-go lifestyle combined with small touch screens present unique challenges when designing for the mobile experience. Keep clutter to a minimum.

#2 Mobile-Only Social

Since 80% of time spent on social media is mobile, marketers may want to make this their focus for 2017. Instagram and Snapchat are quickly growing and becoming important channels to consider to engage your mobile audience. Instagram, in particular, is providing many regional businesses with powerful features such as live streaming, in-app purchase and targeted advertising to enhance the mobile first experience.

TIP: Video advertising through Instagram has proven to be a valuable and cost-effective strategy to engage Hudson County target audiences.

#3 Video Wins

In the ongoing competition for attention, users and consumer behavior are transforming the ways in which brands are engaging audiences. As a result, social video is one of the key trends for mobility that is important to consider. YouTube reports that mobile video consumption rises 100% every year. Including video on a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%.

TIP: Be sure to include sharing features when using video content and make sure to ask users to help spread your message.

#4 Geofencing on the Rise

All mobile devices feature location information through various network systems, by setting up geofencing businesses can engage mobile audiences within a defined geographic area. For regional events and trade shows geofencing has become an incresingly important strategy to target unique audiences.

TIP: Geofencing was used extensively and effectively in the Jersey City “Make It Yours” campaign to engage audiences at various mobile hubs throughout Brooklyn, NYC and Jersey City.

#5 Listen and Learn

Don’t forget to A/B test with your mobile messaging. When deploying in-app content through Facebook and Instagram, its recommended to run multiple campaigns with different creative and messaging to ensure that your efforts are as effective as possible and yielding the greatest ROI. Tracking performance and analytics can provide important clues to your audience’s behavior and where to take your marketing efforts moving forward to meet their needs. Listen to your audience and you’ll be richly rewarded.

The world of mobile is a complex, ever-changing landscape which is constantly evolving by aggregating important consumer data and insights. The result is a powerful marketing machine which is seamlessly adapting to user behavior by adding features and benefits to engage audiences in a deeper mobile brand experience. So whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a small business, embracing mobility can help supercharge your marketing efforts through the coming years.

Jason Rand is Creative Director of HarrisonRand, a third generation family owned business in Hudson County and Member of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce. Please let Jason know how it goes and what you’d like to see in his next post: email him at Jason@HarrisonRand.com

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From the Halls of Trenton: Gas Tax, Referendums, Election Results & More

by Hoboken Strategy Group

So much has happened since we last checked in.  Let’s get right into it.

statecapIf you have filled up your gas tank since November 1, you may have noticed that the State has increased the gas tax through the re-authorization of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).  The TTF had run out of funding over the summer and Governor Chris Christie halted all transportation-related construction projects which had been funded with TTF funding.  As a result, projects such as the Park Avenue Bridge rehabilitation were halted until a TTF resolution was instituted.

Late in the day on Friday afternoon, September 30, Governor Chris Christie, alongside Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, announced a bipartisan agreement for the future of the TTF along with the State’s first broad-based tax cut since 1994.  The Legislature approved legislation associated with this agreement the following week and Governor Christie signed it into law on October 14.

The bipartisan compromise for the replenishment of the TTF would provide dedicated funding of $2 billion per year through an increase in the gas tax by 23 cents per gallon while also authorizing up to $12 billion in borrowing for an 8-year period.  Fiscal estimates have shown that the gas tax increase will cost the average New Jerseyan between $184 and $276 per year.  However, the State Department of Transportation and NJ Transit have estimated that the average New Jersey driver spends approximately $600 per year on vehicle repairs caused by the State’s current road conditions.

On the tax cut side, the compromise includes:

  • A reduction in the sales tax from 7% to 6.875% on January 1, 2017, followed by a further reduction to 6.625% on January 1, 2018
  • An increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor from 30% to 35%
  • A $3,000 personal income tax exemption for all New Jersey veterans honorably discharged from active duty in the military or National Guard
  • An increase in the tax exclusion on retirement income to $100,000 for joint filers, $75,000 for individuals, and $50,000 for filers married but filing separately.
  • A phase out of the Estate Tax over the next two years, replacing the current $675,000 threshold with a $2 million exclusion after January 1, 2017 and the elimination of the tax altogether as of January 1, 2018.

After a long wait, transportation and infrastructure projects will receive the State funding necessary to advance.   With increases in aid to counties and local governments, long-awaited improvements to the area’s roads, bridges and mass transit systems can be initiated.

Election Day 2016 is now behind us.  While New Jersey voters supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with 55% of the vote, Donald Trump earned 290 electoral votes to become President (compared to 228 electoral votes for Secretary Clinton).  President-elect Trump has initiated the Presidential transition process.  In the coming weeks, we can expect to learn the President-elect’s choices for Cabinet-level positions and White House senior staff.

President-elect Trump will be working with Republican majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives.  Here in Hudson County, voters easily re-elected our Congressional representatives, Congressman Albio Sires (D-8), Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-9) and Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10).  And just in case you are in election overload, get ready because in New Jersey, 2017 will feature a gubernatorial election along with all 120 seats in the State Legislature and several other local offices up for election.

This year, voters in the State split in deciding two statewide ballot questions.  Voters overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the State Constitution to allow for casino gambling in two additional counties in the State, 78% to 22%.  As you know, casino gambling is only allowed in Atlantic City.  This amendment would have allowed the Legislature to permit casino gambling in two other counties in the State.  Under the amendment, only one casino per county would be allowed and would be located at least 72 miles from Atlantic City.  Speaking of Atlantic City, a share of revenue from the operation of the casinos would have been used for the recovery, stabilization or improvement of Atlantic City, with the remaining portion of the State’s revenue dedicated to programs and property tax relief for senior citizens and disabled residents.

The demise of this ballot question seemed inevitable for at least the past month when groups supporting the amendment pulled funding for an advertising campaign following a Stockton University poll showing 71% of voters opposed, 24% in favor and 5% undecided.  In anticipation of defeat, proponents pledged before Election Day to explore getting the question on the ballot in a future election.

The State’s other ballot question, which was approved 51% to 49% dedicates all of the State’s gasoline and motor fuels tax revenue to transportation funding.  The purpose of this amendment would be to constitutionally guarantee that the revenue collected could not be diverted to purposes other than the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).  With the 23 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax, this ballot question faced an uphill battle with opponents of the amendment under a number of misconceptions including that the increase would be eliminated with the rejection of the ballot question and a theory that the amendment would authorize an additional $12 billion in borrowing.  The fact is that the gas tax increase could only be repealed by the Legislature and, as we noted earlier, the authorization of up to $12 billion in borrowing was a part of the TTF legislation.  So as a result of the approval of this ballot question, motorists can rest assured that the additional money they are paying per gallon is going to transportation-related purposes and nothing else.

A lot has happened in the past few months around and beyond Trenton.  As our nation prepares for a new presidential administration and our State gears up for a gubernatorial election, 2017 looks to be an exciting year, we will keep you up to date on all of the action From the Halls of Trenton!

Hoboken Strategy Group is a boutique New Jersey government relations and business development firm made up of public affairs professionals with years of experience handling legislative and regulatory challenges on the local, state and federal levels.  Kay Elizabeth LiCausi, President of Hoboken Strategy Group, serves on the Government Affairs Committee for the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce.  Michael J. Comba serves as Vice President of Hoboken Strategy Group.  They can be reached online at www.hobokenstrategy.com and on Facebook at Hoboken Strategy Group.

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HarrisonRand Know-How: 3 Easy Steps to Get Your Content Marketing Moving

by Jason Rand, Harrison Rand

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What would you like to read about in Jason’s next post? Email your suggestions to Jason@HarrisonRand.com

Our last post explored ways to boost social engagement. Now, it’s time to put those tips to work and begin some basic planning of an integrated content marketing strategy. Research shows that “content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads”. Content marketing is defined as a program that centers on creating, publishing, and distributing content to target audiences — usually online —  with the goal of attracting new customers.  According to a recent Demand Gen Report survey 47 percent of B2B buyers consume three to five content pieces before engaging with a business. Yet, more than 70 percent of marketers lack a consistent content strategy. It’s clear that having a defined content strategy is critical to long term business health in a competitive landscape.

As the pace of marketing and business accelerates, having an effective, integrated, sustainable content marketing strategy has never been more important. The challenge is with so much information available online, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

 #1 Getting started

Explore the value of the services or mission of the business or organization and then look at the target audience against an annual calendar. Now, look at the competition and see what they’re doing or not doing. Identify areas which may be weaknesses for them and think about how to do it better. This important step can help guide the process of building out a grid to organize your efforts and effectively integrate and track opportunities along with content initiatives throughout the year. Compile lists of topics which are unique, interesting and relevant and break them into two categories. Compile another list of all the target markets to be engaged through these efforts.

 TIP: Consistency in a topic through a cycle will streamline the process and lead to greater audience engagement and less confusion.

  • List one: Timely topics such as news, market cycles and events. For example, the health care industry’s need to address changes in insurance coverage and developments in the field or a not-for-profit’s participation in Giving Tuesday.
  • List two: Ideas for content which are focused on broader topics which are core to the brand. For example, real estate developers using video to address a project’s design philosophy or approach to urban planning.

Once the lists are complete, begin distributing the content throughout the grid to determine when the best time is during the year to develop and deploy everything.

TIP: Break the calendar into quarters to help simply the process and make it less stressful.

#2 Choosing channels

Selecting where content should live is largely determined by a combination of factors such as audience behavior and engagement levels in context to the types of services provided. Below is an overview of some of the most effective:

  • Blogs: Many businesses don’t consider blogs, but they have been proven significant influencers of SEO, as well as, great ways to engage audiences around specific keyword sensitive topics in a timely fashion. For example: Recent changes in tax structures in the state are a great subject for an accounting or law firm to publish
  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin all have different often overlapping audiences along with their own unique strengths and weaknesses to consider.
  • Email: B2C email marketing is a cornerstone of online shopping. Every day brands deploy millions of emails to promote sales and new products. B2B strategies pivot on this idea by providing valuable insight and advice as “the product”. Round out the integrated content marketing plan by deploying an email strategy to coincide and support blog content. The correct coordination can lead to big results in lead generation.

TIP: Research and develop the content which resonates best with audiences. Good content can be used effectively and efficiently across all platforms. For example: One video of a real estate developer’s interview discussing a new project can be used across all channels with the modification of copy.

#3 Setting up measurement systems

Managing the scheduling and tracking content performance is the critical final stage of building a plan. Research optimal times to deploy emails and post on Facebook or Instagram. All platforms today provide metrics such as open rate, CTR (click through rate), and engagement. The measurement of these initiatives provides insight and understanding into how content is being consumed to determine an ROI. Also, important in this process, is the opportunity it provides to identify positive patterns to be replicated and negative ones to be eliminated. For example: A video post that performed extremely well along with a high engagement rate will see significant sharing as well. If an audience likes it, make more.

Conclusion:

I hope that this overview has been helpful and provided a foundational understanding of the building blocks for an effective content marketing program. Being a successful content marketer isn’t complex, but it does take a large degree of effort and a commitment to consistency and learning.

Most importantly, practice is key. Tracking content performance through trial and error will yield a road map to success.

Please let me know how it goes and what you’d like to see in our next post: email me at Jason@HarrisonRand.com

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