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Christie demands incentives changes to keep Honeywell in Morristown

By , - Last modified: March 2, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday called for an overhaul of one of the state’s main business incentive programs today as he announced a deal to keep Honeywell’s headquarters in Morristown.

Christie said he is going to ask the Legislature to expand both the number of years and amount of money that can be given to businesses that plan to keep more than 1,000 jobs in the state.

Guadagno, Christie and Cote at Honeywell's headquarters. [Tim Larsen/Governor's photos]

Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno made the announcement alongside Honeywell chairman David M. Cote, who approached the governor soon after his term began to tell him the company planned to leave the state.

“I said to him, ‘Give me a week before you make your final decision,’” Christie said. After hearing about the planned update to the Business Retention and Relocation Assistance Grant, or BRRAG, program, Cote indicated he would stay, though the deal with Honeywell depends on the Legislature approving these changes.

“Dave is going to be one of our new ambassadors,” Christie said, bearing a message that “this administration listens, that it acts and that it gets things done.”

The state would not identify where Honeywell was considering for its new home, but Christie said “this guy is not a bluffer,” and meant business.

Currently, BRRAG allows the state to offer incentives for one year of up to $1,500 per retained employee. The governor’s plan would expand that to six years and $2,225 per employee.

“I don’t know exactly how it’s going to work, but I’m going to make it work,” Christie said of business incentives, emphasizing the importance of allowing the corporation business tax surcharge to sunset and issuing a veto over upper income tax increases.

Christie said his administration has brought a new approach to business retention that has made it more competitive, especially among its neighbors.

“I don’t want to speak for Governor [Edward G.Rendell, but I really think he misses the last administration,” Christie said of his Pennsylvania counterpart, a Democrat.

Cote, who said Honeywell plans to make energy-efficiency improvements to the site and add workers, said businesses want to move where they know they can count on government, as “capital is a coward.”

Guadagno said the administration hasn’t yet discussed the proposed changes with the Legislature, but plans to present a package of incentives changes in the fall — and Christie is certain it will be approved, because the changes are necessary.

“The BRRAG program is going through,” he said.

E-mail Andrew Kitchenman at akitchenman@njbiz.com

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