MUMBAI , India — Gov. Phil Murphy woke before dawn Saturday and left his Mumbai hotel for the last full day of his week-long trade mission to the country he argues has enormous potential to expand jobs back home in New Jersey.
Steps away from the where he stayed at the Taj Mahal Palace, a luxury five-star hotel that lives up to its name, is the Gateway of India. The massive 85-foot tall stone monument that overlooks the Arabian Sea was built in the early twentieth century to greet a British monarch’s visit to the country and served as a symbol of colonialism. Now, it’s recognized as a gateway to India.
Murphy, who returned to New Jersey early Sunday morning, said he felt welcome as he sought to convince business executives and officials to establish a foothold in the Garden State or expand their current businesses.
“If you looked at any place, and I say ‘place’ in the world including any place in America, which has upside potential for job creation in New Jersey,” Murphy told NJ Advance Media during his trip, ” I think (India) is number one.”
While the governor and his three-dozen-member delegation put their heads down each night at five-star hotels, Murphy’s schedule left him little time for sleep. Murphy was usually up by around 6 a.m. and the days dragged on into the late evenings and early hours of the morning.
Murphy traveled to six cities for more than 50 meetings with at least 1,000 people from companies he’d like to lure to the Garden State.
He visited Delhi, Agra, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Gandhinagar.
During his trip, the governor sat down with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he visited the Taj Mahal and traced Mahatma Gandhi’s final steps, met the daughter of Gandhi’s oldest son, and he paid respects to the country’s diverse religious population with stops at the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India, and the Akshardham Temple, a Hindu temple with ties to New Jersey.
Mostly, though, he kept busy with the stated reason: Lure jobs to New Jersey.
The governor announced the state established a foothold here and opened an office with the goal of finding companies interested in expanding in the Garden State or opening up shop there. He also made a push to bring Bollywood production companies to film in New Jersey.
And the biggest achievement Murphy touted before he and most of the three-dozen-member delegation boarded a more than 15 hour flight back home is the plan by three Indian companies to expand their operations and add more than 1,200 jobs.
“They’re looking for the same strengths that we have, which are talent and location. And then you add to that, … (which is we’ve) got an overwhelmingly powerful and large Indian community,” Murphy said.
And more growth is on the way, Murphy and his administration argued.
“Their clients are in this northeast region and given that they’re in the northeast region it’s only natural that these companies would grow in the same region,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
The demand for some of these companies to expand is so high that there’s been little talk of tax incentives — a controversial topic in Trenton — to bring them to New Jersey, Sullivan said.
“We’ve had hundreds of conversations, but I can count on one hand the number of times tax incentives came up,” he said. “They want to talk about fundamentals. They want to talk about talent and about way of life.”
He and Murphy said the trip gave New Jersey an opportunity to forge personal ties.
Several times, crowds would burst out in applause when the person introducing Murphy told them it was the first time a sitting New Jersey governor was visiting the state.
“The face-to-face piece … really matters here,” Murphy said.
“It’s part of this comfort factor,” he said. “It’s very much built on real relationships.”
Murphy capped off the trip off by signing a sister-state agreement with the chief minister — the equivalent of a governor in the U.S. — of the state Gujarat, which represents the largest population of Indian Americans living in New Jersey.
“This trip alone was more than just planting the seed, this was a strong healthy balance of cultural appreciation for the population we already have, an appreciation that we have for the companies that invest in New Jersey and already call New Jersey home, and for the companies that may want to call New Jersey home,” said Jose Lozano, CEO of Choose New Jersey, the group funding the trip.
“International companies look at New Jersey as a gateway to the U.S.”
Murphy’s delegation included representatives from five New Jersey universities: Princeton University, New Jersey City University, Rowan University, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. It also included the director of community engagement at Hackensack Meridian Health, the CEOs of HealthEC and InRhythm, a managing director at JP Morgan Chase and two representatives from a pair of law firms: Genova Burns and McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.
The trip was funded by Choose New Jersey, a business-funded nonprofit formed in 2010 at former Gov. Chris Christie’s urging.
It’s made up of some of the state’s largest utilities, labor unions, and financial companies. Its stated mission is to attract businesses to the Garden State. The group’s board members — which include PSE&G, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and PNC Bank — have deep business stakes with New Jersey that intersect with government oversight.
Taxpayers picked up the tab for Murphy’s security detail.