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Grapevine: Newark's nerwcomer, the search goes on at Choose N.J.

By , - Last modified: January 2, 2012 at 9:04 AM

Editor's note: Grapevine is a new column reporting on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at swaters@njbiz.com.

Newark newcomer?

Panasonic is exploring a possible move from Secaucus to Newark, but the consumer-electronics giant is also looking at Brooklyn or may decide to stay in Secaucus, possibly in a new facility, according to sources familiar with the matter. Panasonic might be attracted to Newark by tax breaks through the state's Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program.

Leadership choices

Choose New Jersey will name its first CEO by year-end, and the candidate is coming from outside New Jersey with "deep experience in economic development, outreach and marketing," according to a source close to the search. Meanwhile, the state Chamber of Commerce has yet to settle on a new president to replace Joan Verplanck, who retired this year after 15 years. It will be six weeks or more before a president is named, and both in- and out-of-state candidates are being considered.

Line on Xanadu candidates

Place your bets on two of the four remaining candidates for Xanadu redeveloper. Triple Five, in Edmonton, is one of the two that has a higher probability of success. Two other companies appear to be long shots. DeBartolo Development, in Tampa, Fla., remains one of the four, but it was unclear if they are the other top contender. A key source ruled out Related, Trump, Vornado and General Growth Properties. Insiders are "hopeful" a designation will be made by Christmas.

Hospital maneuvers

The state's hospitals remain under siege. Valley is facing such fierce local opposition to its expansion desires that the Ridgewood hospital had explored whether to move, an option it recently ruled out. Meanwhile, St. Barnabas Health Care System and Atlantic Health continue to chat about shared services, or even a merger. Atlantic's talks with Hackensack University Medical Center were ongoing for most of 2010, but then faded away, prompting the owner of Morristown Memorial Hospital and Overlook Hospital to move on to St. Barnabas.

Unemployment metrics

The task force looking to head off steep unemployment insurance tax increases on businesses next summer is giving a second look to several proposals made by Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year. The task force is looking to phase in tax increases, so businesses don't see the entire increase this year, according to a source familiar with the task force's work. Without changes by July 1, employers would see tax increases of 0.8 percent to 1.9 percent on the first $29,600 paid to each employee.

The task force is split on supporting Christie's proposals, but it plans to submit them as potential solutions in its report, along with the dollar amount each proposal would save. The group aims to have its report to the governor by Dec. 31.

Revel revolving funding

The up-and-down saga on Revel finalizing more than $1 billion in funding for its Atlantic City megaresort continues, with the company facing a target of early January to finalize financing so construction can begin immediately with completion by July 2012. In late November, a key Atlantic City observer was optimistic the funding would be done on time. Last week, the same source's optimism had waned. Revel did not respond to a call for comment.

New gig for McGreevey partner

Mark O'Donnell, the partner of former Gov. Jim McGreevey, has left his post as chief financial officer managing the finances of Charles Kushner, and is instead doing the same work for the billionaire heir to the Stryker family fortune, Jon Stryker. O'Donnell is "loving" his new gig, according to a friend of the couple.

Tech merger

IT services firm Ancero LLC, in Mount Laurel, will announce this week its acquisition of Cherry Hill's Integrated Network Consulting. The combined company will have a staff of more than 50. The Cherry Hill offices will be closed with Integrated Network Consulting personnel relocating to Mount Laurel. Ancero has relocated its sales, marketing and networking operations to a new 11,000-square-foot facility in Mount Laurel because of the increased staff.

Pants on fire

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver remains "apoplectic" about Christie calling her a liar last month, according to a longtime political observer. She reportedly will continue to stalemate the governor on tool kit measures until she gets an apology. "Until he does something publicly, she's not getting past it," the source said. Meanwhile, business groups want to ensure pro-business measures expected to come up in the Legislature in the coming months do not get bogged down in partisan fights. "We can't afford for that to repeat with the business package," said a State Street lobbyist.

The GOP, meanwhile, believes Democrats are trying to rain on the governor's parade by enacting some of their job-creation bills — unveiled before Thanksgiving — before Christie's State of the State address on Jan. 11. "They're trying to one-up the governor, but they're using our playbook," said a leading GOP legislator.

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