You’re from New Jersey? What Exit?

April 9, 2020

There are about 9 million people living in the state of New Jersey and they are not all mobsters and corrupt politicians, as The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire might have you believe.

New Jerseyans are pretty accustomed to stereotypes like this, and Jersey Jokes are a well-established genre of American humor. How far back does this tradition go? Abraham Lincoln, the greatest of our presidents, is reported to have told a Jersey joke about a shipwrecked sailor who would rather float helplessly with the tides than be hauled up to safety on the Jersey shore. In 1872, the magazine Picturesque America remarked that from its beginning, New Jersey “has been the butt of sarcasm and wit of those who live outside her borders.”

New Jersey, whose nickname is The Garden State, ranks highest in the production of blueberries (the state fruit), peaches, cranberries and almost all garden vegetables like the well-known Jersey tomato and Jersey sweet corn, which come from the 10,000+ farms located here. However, New Jersey is also respected globally for its strength in the biopharmaceutical and medical device industry.

New Jersey is known as “The Medicine Chest of the World” for good reason. The State is home to 14 of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Co., Novo Nordisk and Bayer Healthcare. The most famous early pharmaceutical migration was that of the Johnson brothers, who left New York to search for a suitable factory in New Jersey. One day in 1886, one of the brothers, James, was riding a Pennsylvania Railroad train, which slowed to cross the Raritan River at New Brunswick. ”He looked out the window and spied a To Let sign on a four-story red brick building,” according to a corporate history. ”This would soon become the first home of Johnson & Johnson.”

New Jersey has the nation’s highest concentration of scientific professionals, with 126,000 life sciences/biopharma workers statewide. Each year, more than 22,000 students graduate with degrees in life sciences from New Jersey’s state universities, ready to enrich a well-educated workforce. New Jersey offers six higher education institutes that grant graduate and post-graduate degrees in biomedical and healthcare fields. 11 schools confer doctorates for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to about 700 students per year— placing New Jersey among the top 15 states. These institutions are enhanced by 13 teaching hospitals and three medical schools: New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) of UMDNJ (Newark), Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of UMDNJ (New Brunswick) and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (Camden)Spanning the center of New Jersey, the Life Sciences Supercluster is a concentrated group of companies that range from scientific and research/ development bases to specialized pharmaceutical and other medical-related manufacturing facilities.

New Jersey is also a key location for many biotechnology firms. New Jersey was home to just 30 biotechnology firms in 1994, today more than 350 such companies dot the state’s landscape, an outcome that not only reflects New Jersey’s “Medicine Chest of the World” history, but also reveals a rapidly advancing scientific community that has sequenced the human genome and can avail itself of potent supercomputers (such currently-advanced tools did not exist in 1994). New Jersey also offers access to capital markets and major airports, key consideration for biotechs who may demand massive funding on the path for treating patients.

Its location is appealing to companies looking to access major markets and sources of talent. Situated in the center of the Northeast corridor, which generates over 20% of U.S. GDP, it boasts proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, the largest and fifth-largest cities in the U.S. The Port of New York/New Jersey is the largest in the country as measured by the value of goods flowing in and out. Eighty percent of the pharma industry exists in the corridor from Connecticut down to Wilmington, Delaware, a lot of it is along New Jersey’s Route 1 corridor, because there is so much expertise concentrated there.

9 million people can’t be that delusional. There is undeniable natural beauty that can be found across the entire state. The Jersey Shore, (the coast, not the TV show) which is basically God’s gift to mankind, includes 1800 miles of shoreline with 11 stunning lighthouses. And yes, we do know a lot of guys named Tony.