Perth Amboy officials contend that they were left out of negotiations between the state Economic Development Authority and online food company Gourmet Nut – which had been eyeing a move out of Brooklyn – resulting in the city getting a shorter end of the stick on the agreement.
State officials approved the $12.1 million corporate tax break under the now-expired Grow New Jersey incentives for the online food company in September 2017, when they were eyeing a 62,000 square-foot industrial building near the Raritan River.
The move will bring with it 111 new jobs, 30 temporary construction jobs and an overall $6.5 million investment into renovating and building the new facility, which they bought for $4.6 million in December. A representative for Gourmet Nut said that they used a Clark-based contractor to do the construction work.
“[The] EDA went ahead and they supported business to come into the city, however, they never had that conversation with me,” Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz told NJBIZ.
“If we were part of the conversation… it would’ve given us the opportunity where we would go to the business [and] would have been able to set up say a job fair… sit and have that conversation, ‘If you’re going to open up your doors in the city of Perth Amboy, we want to be able to host a job fair so that our residents have an opportunity,” Diaz added.
The Gourmet Nut representative said that while they could not disclose the specific residences of employees, they could assure that they already have Perth Amboy residents working at the facility.
“We are thrilled that the mayor of Perth Amboy wants to work with us to better the community,” the representative told NJBIZ. “Coming from Brooklyn local officials never reached out to us so its a breath of fresh air to have this opportunity.”
Officials at the EDA, tasked with overseeing Grow NJ, contend that the program lacked any requirement for local input as part of the application process. Gov. Phil Murphy proposed replacing Grow NJ with NJ Forward, which would be capped at $200 million a year and include local hiring agreements for tax break recipients.
“The Murphy Administration and the NJEDA are committed to equitable, inclusive economic development, and believe that working closely with community leaders is crucial to the creation of a stronger and fairer economy that benefits all residents,” EDA spokesperson Virginia Pellerin said in a statement to NJBIZ.
The matter of local hiring came up last week with Camden – where the state awarded $1.6 billion of Grow NJ tax breaks between 2013 and 2018.
EDA officials reported last week that out of 25 projects in Camden County which receive tax breaks, only 2 percent of the 1,098 construction jobs went to Camden City residents and 26 percent to county residents.
Local officials heavily disputed the EDA’s report, arguing that the agency left out an unknown number of union construction workers, and offered a limited and inaccurate assessment of who has been employed in Camden because of the tax break program.
In total, 194 city residents were hired out of those 1,098 construction jobs, the county said.