Urban Renewal Incentives to build

Breaking down the ways the EDA spurs work in urban areas

Andrew George//June 8, 2015

Urban Renewal Incentives to build

Breaking down the ways the EDA spurs work in urban areas

Andrew George//June 8, 2015

Since New Jersey retooled its incentive offerings with the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act in 2013, awards have been approved for several big-ticket projects across the state.

You may have noticed the cities of Camden, Jersey City and Newark are often the ones grabbing the most headline-worthy awards for “mega-projects.”

So what’s going on in Paterson, Passaic, Trenton and Atlantic City — the state’s other four “Garden State Growth Zones” under EO13 (outside of Camden)? What about its other targeted distressed municipalities, where incentives can be just as plentiful?

NJBIZ caught up with Economic Development Authority CEO Melissa Orsen and President Tim Lizura to talk about incentives statewide.

NJBIZ: As far as incentives go, cities like Newark, Camden and Jersey City seem to consistently snatch up the biggest projects. Are other targeted areas, places like Paterson and Trenton, utilizing what’s available to them?

Tim Lizura: I think they are. … I think they are keenly aware of the advantage that they have when it comes to the policy objectives under the law, which is to drive investment and redevelop some of our distressed communities and Garden State Growth Zones.

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NJBIZ: How so?

TL: Each city has its own different advantages, strong suits and assets. Take a place like New Brunswick, for instance. A lot of the play gets to what’s going on in the town of New Brunswick, but (a lot is happening in) the industrial areas over by Jersey Avenue. … In Paterson, there’s been a longstanding company called Accurate Box. … They had to go through a major expansion and they took advantage of the Grow New Jersey program. When you look at the Grow program, there’s so much in the way of manufacturing and industrial investment, which we’re so pleased with. You see that in many of the locations. In Trenton, just months ago, we approved LMT to build a new facility in the city of Trenton to make its railings and things of that nature. Those are just things, in my estimation, that without the incentive bill, we wouldn’t see happening.

NJBIZ: Atlantic City is the newest addition to the list of Garden State Growth Zones, with the only stipulation being that qualified projects must be nongaming. What’s the latest there?

Melissa Orsen: We do expect applications to come in there as well.

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NJBIZ: Any sense as to when?

TL: A lot of discussions. Lots of clients coming in and exploring the possibilities of nongaming activity in the city. It is exciting. These things take a while. Even now, the Grow bill is only 17 months (old) and Atlantic City was just added in the fall. These projects have a lot of work behind them, both from the applicant side and then, of course, our side.

NJBIZ: Aside from Jersey City, Newark and Camden, do the other Garden State Growth Zones and targeted areas have to do more in terms of marketing themselves to outside investors and increasing awareness about the incentives that are available to them?

TL: I think Choose New Jersey does a great job marketing the entire state. We don’t necessarily make these markets; we provide the opportunity. I think you look at some places that have been very active. Pennsauken, a city in South Jersey, (has been) very, very active under this bill. (There are) another (several) projects in the city of Lakewood. Bayonne, another one. So there are a number of places across the state that, while they’re not maybe $100 million projects, they are very substantial.

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NJBIZ: So, even though these cities aren’t attracting the so-called “mega-projects” just yet, you’re confident that there’s still plenty getting done there?

TL: Yeah, we think so.

NJBIZ: Looking ahead, do you see any new trends in the way of incentives? Any particular areas of the state that are primed to take off?

MO: We can tell you that we see a lot of interest across the state in these incentive programs.

TL: When I look at North Jersey, South Jersey distribution, under the old programs, North Jersey would always have 70 percent to (South Jersey’s) 30 percent. With this program, it’s closer to 50-50. I think that in itself was one of the policy objectives under the law and I think you’ve seen that. I wouldn’t expect that to change.

What is a Garden State Growth Zone?

Under the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Passaic — the four New Jersey cities with the lowest median family income levels based on U.S. Census data — were declared Garden State Growth Zones, meaning projects in those areas are eligible for some of the state’s most attractive incentive offerings. In October 2014, Gov. Chris Christie signed a follow-up incentives bill into law that also established Atlantic City as a Garden State Growth Zone, with the condition that only nongaming projects be eligible for the designated incentives there.