The Murphy administration is hiring longtime financial analyst Evan Weiss as its opportunity zone point-person, while it eyes the next forms of economic incentives it will employ to attract businesses to the state.
Weiss will assume the role of senior advisor for public finance at the Economic Development Authority, according to a statement provided to NJBIZ. Prior to this, Weiss served as director at PEL Analytics and specialized in tech and life-sciences businesses.
“Weiss will focus his time on finding creative solutions to New Jersey’s most pressing economic and community development problems, including financing affordable housing and water infrastructure, leveraging opportunity zones and collaborating with hospitals and universities,” the statement reads.
A product of the 2017 federal tax cuts, opportunity zones allow investors to shield their dividends from capital gains tax by investing them in certain low-income communities for up to 10 years.
There are 8,000 such zones across the country, and 169 opportunity zones spanning 75 municipalities in all 21 counties.
“Evan’s experience creating effective and lucrative partnerships between public and private entities as well as his expertise in tax incentives, and opportunity zones will serve New Jersey well as we move into the next phase of economic development,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in the statement.
The state’s two largest economic incentives – the multibillion-dollar Grow New Jersey corporate tax break and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth gap financing grant – both expired July 1, leaving the state without any major incentive program.
Grow NJ has fallen under intense scrutiny over allegations that companies connected to political powerbroker George Norcross unfairly and unethically won hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks.
Murphy declined to sign legislation sent to him by lawmakers to renew both programs for seven months while they hashed out the next set of incentives, arguing that the incentives must be capped, despite opposition from legislative leadership to that proposal.
The governor, in his October “State of Innovation,” argued that opportunity zones would be part of the economic incentive package.
As part of a push in the economic outline, opportunity zones would be combined with the historic preservation tax credit program aimed at incentivizing underutilized or abandoned historic urban properties, as well as the rehashed Brownfields redevelopment incentive for redeveloping abandoned and polluted urban properties.
Murphy’s plan calls for capping brownfields and the historic preservation tax break at $20 million each. NJ Forward would replace Grow NJ and be capped at $200 million annually. NJ Aspire would replace ERG and be capped at $100 million.
The proposed Innovation Evergreen Fund would be capped at $60 million a year – it calls for the state and private venture capital firms to split investments 50/50 into start-up’s moving into New Jersey.
“Evan is a highly respected expert in New Jersey in the field of community and urban development and his talents are an incredible asset to the administration and to the taxpayers of New Jersey,” Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Development Joe Kelley – to whom Evan will report along with Chief Policy Advisor Kathleen Frangione – said in the statement.