Lattice's Burgess Says He is Often Asked, "Why Stay in N.J.?"

For a series of feature articles about the tech business climate in New Jersey, interviewed Paul_Burgess_of_Lattice_Small_PictureLattice Inc.’s Paul Burgess, president and CEO. Lattice, headquartered in Pennsauken, N.J., and publicly traded, provides advanced information and communications technology solutions to the government and commercial markets.

The company’s Lattice Government Services division designs, deploys and manages advanced technological solutions for key government agencies and mid- to large-sized enterprises. The company’s Lattice Secure Communications division provides core proprietary platforms that develop customized software applications with military-grade security for markets including correctional facilities that require highly secure solutions. Telecom solutions monitor and restrict  calls to and from inmates at correctional facilities.

Recently Lattice announced it had completed installation of three additional call management systems in jails in Oklahoma. In March, Lattice said it would be introducing two new product lines in 2011. The first will be video visitation and the second a kiosk system for use by both visitors to and inmates in correctional facilities.

Why is Lattice in N.J.? What do you consider to be good aspects of doing business in the state?

One of the big reasons we are here is that the company, which was founded in 1973, is very telecom engineering-focused, and there was a good stable of telecom talent. And there are a number of defense contractors here in N.J., and they attract talent.

The proximity to New York and Philadelphia is also beneficial for our company. It’s no secret that financing for companies usually comes out of New York, so companies here have very good proximity to the major investment banks. Investors really like to see the companies in which they invest. In N.J., they can actually go out to a company and see it without having to get on a plane. We are only an hour or so away from New York and just minutes from Philadelphia.

What have you found difficult in N.J.?

I think the downside of incorporating in N.J. has more to do with the problems at the very beginning phases of starting a company here. I wouldn’t call it one of the country’s friendliest states in which to do business. The process of starting up a new corporation here can be very cumbersome, and there are a lot of taxes you pay that you don’t have to pay elsewhere. This is typical of states in the Northeast, but it is a downside for N.J. That’s why you see so many corporations that are headquartered here but incorporated in Delaware.  Also, labor laws are very restrictive.

In fact, we are quite often asked why we are in N.J since we don’t do any business here. We are often asked by shareholders why we don’t move to Oklahoma, for example, where it is cheaper to do business, it’s not as tax oppressive and we are actually doing business there. We also get calls from other states, even calls from other countries, asking us to relocate. They say they have a great talent pool, it’s a low-cost place to do business and regulation won’t get in your way. In the end, it’s hard to pick up a company and move it. And when someone does leave, there’s really no chance that the state is going to get them back.

What would you recommend to help the business atmosphere here?

Simplifying taxes and regulation would be a good first step. Ideally you want a system that is going to attract both large and small businesses to the state and prevent companies already here from relocating to more business-friendly states such as Texas.

I’d like to see more N.J. colleges incorporate co-op programs that incorporate work credits into their curricula. This would enable us to give students the work experience they need while providing us with the ability to train future hires. Or they would be more marketable for someone to hire somewhere else.

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