They could see daylight.
Nearly five years after the housing market collapsed, the economy in 2012 strengthened. The residential real estate market stabilized. The private-sector added jobs, even though it lagged the nation. Community banks set their sights on expansion. Consumers were heartened.
Then came Sandy, delivering a new set of obstacles that few, if any, New Jersey business owners have had to navigate. Among them: whether they could even reopen?
It sets the stage for an economy that in 2013 is anybody's guess. The Asbury Park Press asked business owners and economists to assess the state's -- and their -- economic prospects in 2013.
Here is what they said:
Tim McLoone, who opened Rum Runner in 1987 and owns seven other restaurants:
"We're not open at the Rum Runner in Sea Bright, but everything else is open after two weeks to six weeks of not being open. But we have no plan for the Rum Runner. There's vendors and construction people sending invoices but aren't getting money back. For the locals the economy is kind of in suspension. I think eventually there will be a lot of money coming to the area but it's not there yet. Having said all that, in general, boy were we positioned to do well going forward. Everything was fantastic this fall until the storm....People love the Jersey Shore. They're coming back. The customers are coming. The hard part is, how do we get ready by May or June?"
Philip Cardelfe, partner with Cardelfe Masonry in Fair Haven:
"I have high expectations for 2012, and I think, unfortunately, a good reason for that is we do masonry construction and there's obviously a tremendous amount of damage to the area from Hurricane Sandy. From what I understand, homeowners are trying to settle with insurance companies. Towns are considering imposing new regulations for rebuilding. Right now from a masonry point of view, it's up in the air. Before the work will come to us, homeowners will need to consult architects and engineers. Once that is settled, eventually it will come to us."
Anika Khan, economist, Wells Fargo:
"The uncertainty around the fiscal cliff has a lot of businesses on hold ... For New Jersey in particular, we'll continue to see this kind of stop and go. New Jersey's overall economic activity wasn't in a place of strong or solid growth going into Sandy. When you put Sandy on top of overall economic growth, you're going to continue to get this pullback. It's still sitting on top of weak fundamentals.:
William V. Rapp, economist, New Jersey Institute of Technology:
"I think it looks pretty good for next year. Look at the major industries -- pharma, telecom, health care providers, all those activities seem to be back up and operating. There's no reason the New Jersey economy shouldn't bounce back in terms of major economic activities."
Abran Maldonado, 31, of Long Branch, who founded NuSkool, an online company that offers lesson plans tied to popular culture. His company graduated from TechLaunch, a program for technology start-ups at Montclair State University, and opened in New York in October:
This space is really booming right now. It didn't have the same job loss as other industries. Some people think it's a bubble that's going to pop. I really don't think that. This is one space where, as these technology
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