Moving from now to next requires more than just innovative thinking. You need to understand what the research and data is telling you before the door to insightful solutions opens. Focus NJ: The Center for Economic Research and Workforce Solutions is ready to do just that. Historically, this column has been an NJBIA In Action report. However, beginning this month, Focus NJ will be reporting monthly In Focus research.
Launched in February 2020, Focus NJ is an independent, nonprofit research foundation that conducts timely, nonpartisan economic and workforce research to support sound public policy in New Jersey. With the goal of creating a New Jersey where individuals and businesses can thrive, Focus NJ conducts research on public policies, industry trends, and economic indicators that impact the Garden State’s overall affordability, workforce and competitiveness.
To better understand the impact of COVID-19, Focus NJ has spent the last few months closely analyzing the state’s economic trends, including Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, total unemployment, and weekly unemployment rates. In addition, Focus NJ is studying national GDP and economic recovery predictions.
In June, Focus NJ released its first report, “Making Sense of the Federal Paycheck Protection Program,” which found that only 14% of New Jersey businesses received PPP funding. That means 86% of businesses have not received federal assistance and mostly are weathering the COVID-19 economic downturn with little to no federal assistance.
Looking ahead, Focus NJ’s priorities for 2020 include the development of a one-stop online statewide portal that will act as a central clearinghouse to match businesses, academia and students with scores of career preparedness opportunities already available, but currently flying under the radar of many applicants.
Along the same lines, Focus NJ received a $10,000 research grant from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) to support the creation of an online Experiential Learning Portal to better connect academia, businesses and students to apprenticeships, job training, and research and development opportunities. Focus NJ’s goal is to launch its online portal in New Jersey by 2021.
Focus NJ’s board of trustees includes some of New Jersey’s leading public policy thought leaders: Dale Caldwell, Ed.D., executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., assistant professor at Monmouth University; Bernard Corrigan, president of IBEW Local 102; and Catherine Milone, president of Junior Achievement of New Jersey; as well as NJBIA’s Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas and Michele N. Siekerka, Esq., president and CEO of NJBIA.
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