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NJ Chamber Roundtable BreakfastMichael Egenton, N.J. Chamber's senior vice president of government affairs (at podium); Tom Bracken, president of the N.J. Chamber; Michael Van Wagner, executive director of the state's Business Action Center; and Gerard Scharfenberger, the Business Action Center's director for planning advocacy at the N.J. Chamber's breakfast on Sept. 17, 2013. For more photos, click here.Days after the fire in Seaside Heights, executives from the New Jersey Business Action Center (BAC) joined members of Gov. Chris Christie's cabinet on the boardwalk to provide information on the state's swiftly created recovery grants of $50,000 and loans of up to $5 million for the dozens of businesses damaged or destroyed.

This is in addition to the grants and loans (no interest for the first two years) the BAC has been offering for the past 12 months to businesses affected by Sandy. And this morning, three senior executives of the BAC were at a breakfast with members of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce discussing how they help businesses expand in state and market their goods overseas.

For a young organization - created two years ago by the Christie administration with a mission to grow, retain and attract businesses in New Jersey - the job of the Business Action Center is nonstop.

"We're all in, and it's 24-7," said Michael Van Wagner, executive director of the Business Action Center.

Van Wagner appeared at this morning's New Jersey Chamber's Roundtable Breakfast with other members of the BAC - Gerard Scharfenberger, the director for planning advocacy, and Bill Spear, the international business advocate.

They said the Business Action Center provides resources to help businesses grow; delivers information on financial and incentive programs; and offers guidance on navigating government's permitting and regulatory requirements. It is also active in helping open overseas markets to New Jersey businesses.

Before the Christie administration, Gov. (Ed) Rendell of Pennsylvania could be seen everywhere - meeting with businesses, sometimes three times a day, Van Wagner said. "We match that now," he said.
   
"We have to be competitive and helpful. There is a lot we can do and have to do, whether its help people start a business, register a business, grow a business or relocate a business. We're here to help you."

The Planning Advocate Office of the BAC has developed a smart growth plan that focuses on zones in New Jersey where businesses are interested in locating as well as where the state would like businesses to locate, said Scharfenberger. Key among the goals is to develop vacant corporate campuses and brownfields, and help companies expand in geographically challenging areas. One example is a new Amazon warehouse being developed in Robbinsville that will bring 2,500 news jobs, and requires special road access and utilities.

The BAC's work in paving the way for New Jersey companies to engage in international trade is especially critical in light of the state's 2.2 percent decline in exporting, which is attributed to the threat of port strikes and damage by Superstorm Sandy, Spear said.

"We help companies overcome obstacles to international trade and we also demystify international trade," Spear said. "We help companies find markets for their good and services overseas."

For assistance form the Business Action Center, call (866) 534-7789.

A special thank you to WithumSmith+Brown for sponsoring the event.

For photos from the event, click here.