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Grapevine: Canada comes calling, BEIP, power discord

Canada comes calling

A tipster tells Grapevine that Canadian brokerage Avison Young is in talks to acquire The Walsh Co., a Morristown-based project management firm that is at work in many of the state's high-profile real estate projects.

Avison Young, in Toronto, has aggressively sought to expand its U.S. presence this year, and opened its first New York office in April. The opening, which it called a "milestone," accompanied the hiring of former Cushman & Wakefield CEO Arthur J. Mirante III.

Avison CEO Mark E. Rose said at the time that Mirante's hiring would help the firm "advance our growth objectives in recruiting the area's top talent, identifying and executing on strategic acquisitions and partnerships."

The Walsh Co., which is led by Ed Walsh, specializes in project management and tenant and owner representation. The firm has racked up an impressive list of clients in recent years, including Panasonic, BASF and Wyndham Worldwide.

Neither Avison Young nor Walsh Co. representatives returned requests for comment by press time.

For BEIP, a time to reap?
An ongoing evaluation of the state's incentives programs could result in the "radical" idea of killing BEIP and putting those funds into another program such as Grow New Jersey, Al Coutinho said last week.

The Newark assemblyman stressed that he didn't want it to seem there was a high probability of an end to the Business Employment Incentive Program, because many ideas are currently being discussed.

"We are looking at that and 15 other ideas," said Coutinho, who is chair of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee in the Assembly.

However, the evaluation by staff at the Economic Development Authority includes a serious look at BEIP and how its resources could be used, Coutinho said. He noted that BEIP is the only major incentives program that has not been created or substantially revised in the past few years. The sense seemed to be that it's BEIP's time for a hard look, and possible overhaul.

Also, the overall evaluation will include an emphasis of focusing more on direct jobs created and less on capital investment.

As NJBIZ already reported, another idea includes raising the portion of project costs that could be financed through the Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant program from a max of 20 percent to 35 percent under special circumstances. Coutinho supports the idea, but Ray Lesniak, who chairs the Senate Economic Growth Committee, has been not as enthusiastic.

Powering discord
One of the key selling points for the long-term capacity agreement pilot program was the notion that area power companies were unlikely to build new power plants without state incentives. The Chris Christie administration believes more power plants would lower electricity prices.

But a group of power suppliers challenging the law is arguing LCAPP's success in spurring new power plant construction is proof the program is unconstitutional.

In a letter last week to U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan, plaintiffs' attorney William J. O'Shaughnessy asked to see information from the three LCAPP generators. O'Shaughnessy wants to know if the power companies — Hess, Competitive Power Ventures and NRG — would have built their plants without LCAPP. If not, he argues, that proves LCAPP interfered with the regional power market, which constitutionally is under the purview of the federal government.

Sheridan is currently considering competing motions for summary judgment in the case. The next hearing could come as soon as this week.

The saints go marching out
The reported dissolution of a merger agreement between St. Joseph's Healthcare System, St. Mary's Hospital and Ascension Health Care Network surprised many in the health care field, especially experts who believe for-profit funding is the best option to keep smaller, urban hospitals competitive.

One health care business expert doubted whether St. Joseph's will be able to find a better partner to merge with, as the deal with Ascension would have put the hospital on a more even footing with large systems like Hackensack University Medical Center and Atlantic Health.

"I don't think the (St. Joe's) board was being very objective by saying no to that," the expert said. Ascension "is embracing all of the Catholic principles, the initiatives, the mission. St. Joe's is not going to find a better partner."

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.

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