Business groups praised Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State speech Tuesday, probably more out of general gratitude for his support of business than for what the governor actually said.

The speech was mainly a lengthy rehash of Christie’s accomplishments and reminders that he feels the pain of those suffering from Hurricane Sandy damage, more like the first major speech of his re-election campaign than the traditional agenda-setting of a state-of-the-union address.

Indeed, practically everything forward looking in the speech could be summed up in a simple sentence: We’re committed, as you might expect, to rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

Christie has managed to slightly improve the business climate in New Jersey, despite opposition in the Legislature, for which he has justly been praised by business groups the past couple of years.

But if business people were hoping he is planning some more small steps in that direction, they had to settle for a statement so general it means almost nothing:

“I will not let New Jersey go back to our old ways of wasteful spending and rising taxes. We will deal with our problems, but we will continue to do so by protecting the hard-earned money of all New Jerseyans first and foremost.”

Yawn.

Apparently this was enough for the state’s major business groups.

Thomas Bracken, president of the N.J. Chamber of Commerce and formerly president and CEO of Vineland-based Sun National Bank, apparently looked for something to praise in the speech and settled on the sound of it.

He said in a statement that Christie had “struck just the right tone in the wake of our recovery efforts following superstorm Sandy.”

Bracken also lauded the governor for his ability to unify people and “serve as a model of bipartisan cooperation.” Let’s hope that means more than just Democratic and Republican leaders agreeing to divide the spoils of the many billions in federal aid coming their way.

Philip Kirschner, president of the N.J. Business & Industry Association, said in his statement that Christie had sent “a clear signal to businesses devastated by the storm that they will get the assistance they need to reopen” and “a clear message to businesses the state will not abandon them.”

I wish I had a dollar for every clear signal and message I’ve heard from a politician that turned out to be meaningless.

At least Kirschner’s remarks tried to steer the state government in a constructive direction, calling for it to act quickly to get the shore areas ready for the crucial tourism season.

“The governor is absolutely right — we need relief aid now,” Kirschner said. “We need to rebuild bridges and roads so the Jersey Shore can be open for business, and we need financial assistance for damaged businesses to help cover what insurance and loans can’t. … Tourism is a $16 billion-a-year industry in New Jersey, and much of it can be attributed to the summer months that people spend at the Jersey Shore. We need to be ready to go when the summer gets here.”

Christie didn’t even mention any challenges facing the southern New Jersey shore, which worried many in the region.

I’m more concerned that he might have avoided specifics to leave himself and his fellow politicians free to do whatever they want. And we know where that often leads.

Misperceptions

Atlantic City offers visitors much more than casinos, but leaders and marketing campaigns also need to ensure that’s how visitors see the city.

Overcoming established perceptions that are no longer accurate can be tough.

The Greater Atlantic City Chamber felt it had to set the record straight with a letter published last month in NJ Biz magazine.

In it, the chamber’s director of business advocacy, Rodger Gottlieb, took to task investment analyst Kathy Bramlage, director at Treasury Partners in New York, for referring to Atlantic City as a “one-horse town” in the Dec. 10 issue.

Gottlieb pointed out the city offers world-class restaurants and exceptional retail, entertainment and recreational offerings — far beyond those of any other gambling destination on the East Coast. He wondered when Bramlage had last visited the city.

I’ve seen this sort of blindness in business people from out of state, a few of whom have told me how pleasantly surprised they were to find the vibrant Tanger Outlets The Walk during their visit for a conference or convention.

Seeing is believing, I suppose, but broader marketing helps, too.

Contact Kevin Post:

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