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Where Innovators Roam

More towns would love to join New Brunswick?s tech-friendly zoneTrenton

A special district in New Brunswick and North Brunswick, where technology and life-sciences companies are eligible for enhanced tax breaks and incentives, would be expanded to seven additional towns along the Route 1 corridor under a bill wending its way through the State Assembly.
New Jersey has three so-called Innovation Zones?in New Brunswick, Camden and Newark?that are designed to encourage high-tech companies to cluster around public universities and research hospitals. The bill (A-3770), sponsored by Assemblymen Upendra J. Chivukula (D-Somerset) and David R. Mayer (D-Blackwood), would expand the New Brunswick zone by adding South Brunswick, Piscataway, Franklin, Princeton Township, Princeton Borough, Plainsboro and West Windsor.
The measure could serve to augment ?Einstein?s Alley,? a long-simmering plan for a Silicon Valley-like home along Route 1 for tech companies. The bill was reported out of the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee this month and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The measure comes despite the fact that the statewide program has attracted just three private companies since then-Governor James E. McGreevey unveiled it last year. They include Gestalt, a Princeton-based information technology company that plans to open an office with 60 employees in the Waterfront Technology Center in Camden, and Novo Nordisk, a global health care firm that will open a 30,000-sq.-ft. research center this fall in the New Brunswick Zone. Medpointe Pharmaceuticals, a drug-development firm, is also moving into the New Brunswick Zone.
Incentives for companies that locate in the zones include an enhanced version of the Business Employment Incentive Program, which gives tax breaks based on the number of new workers a company hires; also available are zero-interest loans from the state?s Springboard Fund.
However, ?the zones ignore private institutions such as Princeton University and Sarnoff in West Windsor,? says West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, who supports the Assembly measure. ?There?s also the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton where Einstein taught. We want innovation zones close to where innovation is.?
?You can?t force innovation into a box,? concurs Kristen S. Appelget, president of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has adopted Einstein?s Alley as a major policy objective for 2005. ?So let?s see where [innovation] is and enhance it.?
email sgoldstein@njbiz.com

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