Forging visionary public-private partnerships to solve public policy questions is vital to spurring economic development and growing jobs in the state, according to participants at an economic development conference this morning in Edison.
“This is not that complicated, particularly in an urban center. It’s just really hard work,” said Christopher J. Paladino, the longtime head of Devco, the nonprofit group that’s been instrumental in New Brunswick’s revitalization.
Paladino pointed to the packaging of projects from different parts of the city’s redevelopment — such as the Gateway Center and the wellness center, as part of an application for the state’s Urban Transit Hub tax credit program — as an example of a creative approach.
Government and business leaders gathered for the “Jumpstarting New Jersey’s Economy” summit, hosted by state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) at the Hilton Garden Inn in Raritan Center to discuss past successes and ways to speed the state’s economic recovery in sustainable ways.
New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill said municipal, civic and business leaders took a long-term view of his city’s prospects in the early 1990s, focusing on the development of health care as a main driver of job growth and economic development in New Brunswick.
“This kind of process has resulted in $2 billion of redevelopment in the past 20 years,” Cahill said.
Another prime example of how economic redevelopment can be done right can be seen in the effects on the area surrounding the Prudential Center, in Newark, according to Robert Sommer, president of Rock Entertainment Management.
The morning’s topics included the recent report on the financials behind the demise of the trans-Hudson rail tunnel project, development of the state’s infrastructure, taxes and the role governments can play in helping businesses thrive.
State tax incentives, for example, helped lure Fujifilm USA, Wakefern Food Corp. and FedEx Corp. — and 2,000 new part- and full-time jobs — to the Raritan Center in Edison and Woodbridge, said Peter Visceglia, president of the Federal Business Center.
The potential merger of Rutgers University’s Camden campus and Rowan University would lead to more jobs and a better educated populace equipped to compete in the work force in the 21st century, said state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge).
“I think the concept is well-thought out, and the need is tremendous,” Vitale said.
Former Democratic Gov. Jim Florio also spoke at the event, saying public policy needs to change from a model that uses old tools to solve new problems, a strategy that has proved to be mostly ineffective.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-Long Branch), Edison Mayor Antonia Ricigliano and others also spoke on economic issues at the event.