Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation aimed at helping small businesses in New Jersey.

The measure directs the state Economic Development Authority to support small businesses and assist them in securing surety bonding, Christie said.

"This is an important but little discussed issue. When you're going for federal and state contracts, you need to have that bonding, and small businesses often don't have access to it," he said. "The EDA is now going to provide opportunities for that so these entities can now more easily bid on federal and state contracts."

Christie said he expects the legislation will create a more diverse pool of minority-owned businesses that perform public services.

"We want more diverse companies to be able to have access to all levels of business in the state," he said. "I want businesses that are owned by African-Americans, by Hispanic-Americans, by Asian-Americans to be able to feel that they have the exact same opportunity as anyone else if their idea is good and their effort is there."

John Harmon, president and CEO of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, hailed the move.

This "marks a new beginning for small-business owners across the state of New Jersey who, prior to today, lacked access to a critical resource that could expand their potential to grow and sustain their enterprise," he said.

Increased competition for those government contracts can lead to lower costs for taxpayers, Christie said.

A record-high 103,000 new businesses filed applications in 2016 to start operating in the Garden State," the governor said. He said that shows they have confidence the economy is going in the right direction.