2 min read May 2023 — In an interview with Invest:, Tim Corriston, managing partner at law firm Connell Foley, discussed the key milestones for the company over the past year, including significant growth in lateral partners, an expansion in key areas, including real estate and government relations and a strong focus on life sciences and technology. Corriston also talked about the challenges faced by New Jersey in attracting and retaining a skilled workforce as well as the state’s efforts to remain competitive in the region.
What have been some of the key milestones for Connell Foley over the past year?
We experienced significant growth over the past year, particularly in the last 18 months. During this time, we welcomed six lateral partners, each with expertise in different areas. One of our new partners, Elnardo Webster, is a leading real estate attorney in the state and a leader in the African American community. Elnardo will have a critical role in our DEI initiatives.
Real estate remains a highly active area, and while we are concerned about interest rates, as the premier real estate development attorneys in the state, we have not experienced a slowdown in projects. We anticipate there will continue to be a gradual shift from the development of residential projects in urban areas to more warehouses and life science developments.
We have also added partners and attorneys who specialize in M&A. Despite the challenges faced by the major New York firms and national firms, we are still very busy, with numerous deals in progress.
In our New York office, we have very successfully expanded our litigation and brownfield practices.
What are some of the differentiators of living and doing business in the state?
I was born and raised in Bergen County, New Jersey. I believe the state has a lot to offer from a business perspective. The Economic Development Authority (EDA) is doing a great job as is Choose New Jersey which travels all over the world to attract investors to New Jersey.
One of the major attractions to New Jersey is our highly educated workforce as well as the benefits of being close to the larger metropolitan areas of New York and Philadelphia. The tremendous growth we’ve seen in Newark, and in Jersey City in particular, is also very beneficial. People from outside the state, are often surprised to find that New Jersey has really nice places to live, great schools and wonderful entertainment options.
The cost of living can be a challenge, however. Although Governor Murphy has done a very good job trying to address property taxes, it remains a difficult issue for many people. Nevertheless, a lot of people are willing to make that trade-off because of the higher salaries and quality of life that the area offers.
One of the biggest challenges we face is losing our industrial workforce. We’re trying to transition to being more focused on life sciences and tech but we’re losing a lot of industry because we don’t have trained people to take over certain jobs. Across the country, there has been a cultural de-emphasis on learning skilled labor jobs, such as machine work. This is a major problem as many businesses are facing a shortage of skilled labor. For example, I have a client who owns an envelope factory that has been in business for 40 years. Over the next 10 years, 60% of their workforce will retire. Finding skilled workers to replace the workers who are retiring has been very difficult. Unfortunately, due to the skilled labor shortage, businesses may be forced to leave the state to find their workforce.
How can New Jersey effectively prepare to remain competitive and continue to attract businesses into the area?
We’re in a very competitive region. The governor’s office, the EDA and Choose New Jersey are doing an excellent job permitting New Jersey to be competitive. In terms of attracting businesses, we need to continue be proactive and not reactive. Law firms must have an in-depth understanding of what is happening in the market.
Programs like the new clean energy financing tool C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy), coupled with a fair regulatory framework are essential in attracting businesses. While the regulatory framework has improved, there is still room for improvement and we need to ensure businesses perceive New Jersey as business friendly. The growth in gambling has created significant growth for the state. Cannabis is also attracting more businesses to our state.
How might generational differences impact companies going forward?
There are significant generational differences, and each generation has a different view on how they want to work and their desire for work-life balance. Generally, the younger generation wants to have more work-life balance. It is important to balance the importance of mentoring and with the work-life balance a hybrid working environment provides.
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