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No. 5: Tim Sullivan

Commercial Real Estate Power 50

Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

– DANIEL J. MUNOZ

As Gov. Phil Murphy’s pick to head the Economic Development Authority, Sullivan has been one of the most vocal cheerleaders for a new set of proposed economic incentives and other programs aimed at luring business into the state. Sullivan has roots as a Wall Street investment banker and headed economic development efforts in Connecticut and New York City.

The EDA currently oversees two controversial incentive programs — the Grow New Jersey corporate tax breaks and the Economic Redevelop-ment and Growth gap financing program, often used for residential projects.

Both have been shrouded in controversy, largely the result of the EDA’s apparent lack of oversight. Under Sullivan, the agency has slowed the award of hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly tax break payments for hundreds of companies in order to make sure executives are actually com-plying with the tax break agreements.

Lawmakers and business advocates worry that the slowdown — and the expiration of the legacy incentive programs — could give businesses pause when debating whether to come to New Jersey, and might actually lead some to go elsewhere.

Murphy and Sullivan argue that many other features of the state — the quality of K-12 and higher education, access to the New York and Philadelphia labor pools, extensive transportation infrastructure — are more important than tax breaks when it comes to businesses coming and going.

Both Murphy and former state Sen. Ray Lesniak are working to fashion a new set of incentives. Both would provide gap financing for residential projects and corporate tax breaks for businesses. They would give bonuses for massive “transformative” projects that might cost hundreds of mil-lions of dollars to construct.

Whatever incentive scheme Murphy and legislative leadership agree on — and likely by the end of the year according to many insiders — Sullivan would be in charge of the state agency overseeing the programs. And while those negotiations drag on, business executives will surely look to Sullivan to keep the state’s economic development efforts on track.

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