New Jersey aims to lure Georgia firms by warning of ‘dangerous’ anti-abortion policies

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Oct. 25, 2021 in Kearny, New Jersey. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Oct. 25, 2021 in Kearny, New Jersey. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

New Jersey’s governor recently made an extraordinary appeal to seven companies with deep roots in Georgia to relocate their businesses to protect female employees from the “dangerous potential new reality” that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

The letters from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, cited his state’s 2022 law that codifies the right to abortion and warned executives that reversing the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade “threatens the safety and quality of life” for women in Georgia and other states that seek to restrict access to the procedure.

“The overturning of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy — and the chilling effect this decision will have on your ability to attract and retain top female talent by being located in a state which has refused to recognize women’s reproductive freedom — cannot be ignored,” he wrote in one letter dated May 25 that was obtained this week by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Versions of the letter were sent to seven unnamed companies in Georgia. Murphy’s office declined to identify the companies, but the Garden State is targeting businesses involved in digital media, financial services, information technology and manufacturing.

In all, Murphy’s office sent letters to more than 50 companies in states with anti-abortion laws, including Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Texas

The New Jersey governor’s office said some companies received letters that were relatively generic while others received more targeted appeals. The letters were sent on state letterhead with New Jersey’s golden seal.

“Economic strength is about more than just value — it is about values,” Alyana Alfaro Post, press secretary for Murphy, said in a statement. “Governor Murphy encourages businesses looking to stand with their employees to look to New Jersey, a state where they can be confident that the rights of women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and voters will always be protected.”

Some corporations, including Amazon and Starbucks, have promised to adopt new policies to expand employees’ access to abortion after the leaked Supreme Court opinion indicated the Roe decision could be overturned. But most Fortune 500 companies have remained silent on the potential ruling, which could be released this month.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office was not aware of the New Jersey outreach until contacted by the AJC. In a lengthy statement that cited three companies that recently moved global or U.S. headquarters to Georgia from New Jersey, Kemp’s office touted the state’s pro-business climate and “surging” international trade numbers.

“We’re happy to engage in this comparison of Georgia’s No. 1 business environment vs. New Jersey’s,” Kemp spokeswoman Katie Byrd said.

“A sitting governor wouldn’t be spending his time making this type of desperate outreach if business was also booming in his state. He’d be celebrating the announcement of multibillion dollar projects and thousands of new jobs with quality companies — like Gov. Kemp has had the privilege of doing several times already this year.”

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Gov. Brian Kemp's office learned through contact from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that New Jersey recently made an appeal to seven Georgia businesses, stressing that the Garden State will protect the rights of those companies' female employees if Roe v. Wade is overturned. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Gov. Brian Kemp's office learned through contact from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that New Jersey recently made an appeal to seven Georgia businesses, stressing that the Garden State will protect the rights of those companies' female employees if Roe v. Wade is overturned. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
Gov. Brian Kemp's office learned through contact from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that New Jersey recently made an appeal to seven Georgia businesses, stressing that the Garden State will protect the rights of those companies' female employees if Roe v. Wade is overturned. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

In a version of Murphy’s letter shared with the AJC, the New Jersey governor referred to a surge of venture capital and thousands of new jobs in advanced manufacturing and clean energy industries. He also cited a high quality of life, writing that “New Jersey is a state where value matches values.”

“While we would love to have some or all of your company located in New Jersey, we understand that it may not be possible to do so overnight,” he wrote. “If you already have a presence in New Jersey, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss how it may be grown.”

Georgia has faced previous threats of economic blowback after Kemp signed an anti-abortion law shortly after taking office. The measure, which was quickly blocked by a federal judge, would ban most abortions as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

Some Hollywood figures and abortion rights advocates vowed economic payback after Kemp signed the measure into law and derided the “C-list celebrities” angry about the measure. But no major Georgia-based firm publicly opposed the measure, and there were few threats of widespread economic backlash from out-of-state industry giants.

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Actress Alyssa Milano speaks to members of the press after she delivered a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp threatening to boycott the state and urging him not to sign HB 481, a bill that would ban most abortions at about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. Kemp signed the bill into law, but a federal judge then put a hold on it. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Actress Alyssa Milano speaks to members of the press after she delivered a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp threatening to boycott the state and  urging him not to sign HB 481, a bill that would ban most abortions at about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. Kemp signed the bill into law, but a federal judge then put a hold on it. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Actress Alyssa Milano speaks to members of the press after she delivered a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp threatening to boycott the state and urging him not to sign HB 481, a bill that would ban most abortions at about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. Kemp signed the bill into law, but a federal judge then put a hold on it. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

That’s a contrast from the backlash in 2016 over a proposed “religious liberty” measure that critics saw as discriminatory to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Georgians. Before that proposal was vetoed by then-Gov. Nathan Deal, big-name brands such as the Walt Disney Co. and the NFL threatened to pull business from Georgia.

Georgia is on a recruiting hot streak, recently landing the two largest economic development projects in its history, securing electric-vehicle plants from Hyundai and Rivian that promise to employ more than 15,000 people.

Georgia and the Garden State have squared off before, with Georgia typically getting the upper hand thanks to its lower taxes and cost of living.

In 2015, Deal persuaded Mercedes-Benz to relocate its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to metro Atlanta, where it eventually relocated about 1,000 jobs in a glitzy campus along Abernathy Road in Sandy Springs.

And Georgia lured back the corporate headquarters of Newell Brands, the manufacturer of the well-known Sharpie and Rubbermaid brands, from the New Jersey city of Hoboken to Sandy Springs. That came less than three years after the company left Georgia for New Jersey.

Georgia was on the losing end to New Jersey, however, for a battle over a 2,000-job expansion by financial tech firm Fiserv.

The states are also fierce competitors for film and television projects, with New Jersey in recent years enacting generous tax credits rivaling Georgia’s.

The entertainment sector could be a receptive audience to New Jersey’s appeals, though Georgia recently won an expansion by NBCUniversal in Doraville, and the state remains a top filming destination outside California.

In his letter, Murphy acknowledged recipients might be reluctant to pull up stakes. But he encouraged corporate leaders to “unequivocally press” for abortion rights at a critical moment in the nation’s history.

“This is a matter of grave importance,” he wrote, “and we are happy to share these strategies that have been successful in New Jersey in protecting these rights.”