TRENTON-Gov. Chris Christie is creating a nonprofit corporationthat he hopes will help invigorate New Jersey'sbusiness community, which he said has shrunk after a decade ofbad policies. The privately funded initiative, called Choose NewJersey, is described as an aggressive marketing campaign and willwork in tandem with the office of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

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"The forces of government in Trenton have not understood thegreat basic principle that we need to get out of your way and letyou create economic growth and vitality," said Christie at ameeting of the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. VerizonNew Jersey president Dennis Bone was named Choose New Jersey'sinterim chairman by its governing board of more than 15 businessleaders.

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Lawmakers recently learned that income tax collections--thestate's largest revenue source--were off by roughly $300 millionfrom projections earlier this year, with the state's loss ofbusinesses to other locales cited by experts as one of thecauses. The initiative also follows a report by Guadagnooutlining rules and regulations that companies must satisfy to dobusiness in New Jersey. The 65-page report recommendspolicy changes to make the state more business-friendly.Christie could implement some of them by executive order; othersrequire legislative approval.

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In a statement, Sen. Steve Oroho (R) commended Governor Christieon establishing the nonprofit. “Over the past 10 years New Jerseyhas established a reputation for being one of the mostanti-business states in the country," he said. "Our penchant forraising taxes, increasing debt and enacting unnecessary regulationshave forced many businesses to close down or leave the state andcost many people their jobs. The Choose New Jersey programrepresents a great opportunity to reverse this poor image among thebusiness community and bring much-needed jobs back to the GardenState." NAIOP New Jersey is also throwing its weight behind theinitiative, noting that New Jersey has long had an image of beingunfriendly to business, and the Christie administration'sinitiative, in collaboration with the corporate community, is aneffort to change that image with the long-term economic success ofNew Jersey at stake.

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But critics say the proposed changes could erode residents'rights to public notice and comment. And environmental groups haveexpressed concerns that a spur in development could harm NewJersey's environment.

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This newest effort comes on the heels of the Time of Applicationbill, which Gov. Christie signed into law lastmonth. While municipalities largely denounced the bill,developers have cheered the move, which bars towns from changingzoning ordinances prior to a land use board’s final decision. "Thelegislation does not guarantee approval of a land use application,but instead allows for the application process to move forwardwithout the unnecessary hurdle of constantly changing requirementswhile the application is pending," said NAIOP NJ's CEO, MichaelMcGuinness, in an earlier interview.

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McGuinness also tells GlobeSt.com that the port area needs work;in particular, the Bayonne Bridge, which is too low to accommodatethe colossal container ships that are expected to be pulling intoEast Coast ports when the Panama Canal is completed in 2015.McGuinness reveals that he recently met with Lt. Gov. Guadagno, whosaid that a resolution must come immediately. Unfortunately, nobodyseems to know what that solution is. Meanwhile, recession-relateddeclines in Port Authority revenues have curbed the bi-stateagency’s ability to finance big projects on its own, raising doubtsas to where the Bayonne Bridge money might come from, and when theproject will be able to move forward. Even so, McGuinness says thatwe need to at least let the shipping and export industries knowthat "we are going to get our act together. Because these shippingcompanies are already investing and making 10- to-15-year decisionsabout where to bring in cargo and buy up land."

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