With a membership of about 350, the 120-year-old chamber is always evolving to meet the needs of its members. These days the chamber happens to be situated in one of the most rapidly-developing counties in the nation, with everything from multinational corporations to kitchen table startups in its jurisdiction. And Hudson County's diverse business community is reflected in the chamber's membership, which includes recognizable names such as Bank of America and Staples as well as companies that just began operations within the last few months.
"The chamber has been incredibly helpful to me," said LaurieAnne Fossetta, marketing director of MedSpa in Jersey City, which opened in October. "They were especially helpful to me as I tried to think through my first advertising and marketing campaign. And having access to lots of other small business owners who were able to give me information from their own experiences was also invaluable."
Marilyn Cintron, CEO of Horizon Health Center in Jersey City, also stated that the chamber's networking opportunities were a main reason Horizon became a member. "They definitely get you in these environments where you network with your colleagues and bring information that will help your business, especially small business and -"
"Well, we just had an opportunity to meet," interjected John Doyle, senior vice president of corporate administration at Jersey City Medical Center and chairman of the chamber's Board of Trustees. "We had never met, and we have some issues we need to talk about. And that may not have happened if I hadn't come to this meeting."
Although networking was front and center at the luncheon, the chamber also had to attend to some business. The chamber's board elected a slate of seven trustees. The trustees elected include Allan Bardack, president of Bardack Realty Co.; Helen Brzozowski, director of the Junior Prep Pre-School Center; Dominick D'Agosta, senior vice president of North Fork Bank; John Doyle, senior vice president of corporate administration at Jersey City Medical Center; Hudson County Community College President Glen Gabert; New Jersey City University President Carlos Hernandez; and John Quigley, vice president of external affairs at Hoboken University Medical Center.
Each trustee will serve a three-year term.
Guest speaker addressed recession fears
The largely festive luncheon was held the day after the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled about 465 points, then recovered somewhat after the Federal Reserve announced an interest rate cut of three-fourths of a point. And while the economy didn't exactly loom large at the lunch, loom it did. The chamber's guest luncheon speaker, Standard and Poor's Chief Investment Strategist Sam Stovall, who talked about the nation's economic outlook, at last pointed out the elephant in the room.
"In terms of trying to understand where the market and the economy are headed," Stovall said, "over the short-term, I think it's going to be challenging. The likelihood of a recession is at least 50 percent, and I would not be surprised if that number rises. Our forecast is that if we have already slipped into a recession, we probably did so in December."
Stovall said that retail sales figures and employment data will soon be able to indicate whether there's a recession right now or not. And although the prospect of a recession tends to bring about fear and anxiety, Stovall said that, on average, recessions as far back as World War II have only lasted about 10 months. He added that the nation's long-term and mid-term economic prospects are strong, particularly when put in historical context.
Since 1950, Stovall said, there have been 50 times that the market has declined between 5 and 10 percent, and it has taken only two months to recover all the investments that were lost in the decline.
Speaking after Stovall's talk, several chamber members seemed reassured by this message.
"You know, we do talk and have talked about the economy in our meetings," Doyle said. "But I think nothing has really changed intermediate and long-term. I think the economy in Hudson County is very strong. The residential market is booming. The commercial market is strong. I don't think there's a more vibrant place to do business in the entire state of New Jersey."