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Grapevine: Laboring over incentive add-ons

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Summer recess notwithstanding, another week has passed in Trenton without lawmakers putting the finishing touches on the long-stalled Economic Opportunity Act. But that hasn't muffled the chatter surrounding the proposed incentives overhaul.

Still in focus is a provision that would require prevailing wages — effectively meaning union labor — for post-construction building services at projects that receive incentives.

A source said business leaders have voiced their disappointment with Democratic leaders who didn't "simply say no" to the Service Employees International Union, which backed the mandate. Opponents to that provision argued that such a requirement would make operating costs unworkable at a new building.

To further complicate the matter, if and when the Legislature sends a polished bill to Chris Christie's desk, the person said it's expected the governor will nix the prevailing wage requirement through a conditional veto. When that happens, it'll mean yet another round of voting by the Senate and Assembly, which stymied advocates late last month when last-minute amendments kept it from being ready for Christie's signature.

The bill, which would revamp and consolidate the state's business and job-creation incentives, has faced delays while being watched for months by business and development groups. Raymond Lesniak, one of its top sponsors in the Senate, said after the Assembly vote that he expects his chamber to give it final approval on July 8.

Supplanting Stockton?

State officials are weighing two separate proposals to expand the higher education footprint in Atlantic City, a source said — but they might be making waves in the process.

One of the plans, by Stockton College, is pending before the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and calls for opening a tourism school in the resort town, where it already has a presence.

Meanwhile, the person said, CRDA chief John Palmieri has opened discussions with Johnson & Wales University, of Providence, R.I., on a similar project.

But Stockton is not privy to Palmieri's discussions with what would be an out-of-state competitor, the source said. What's more, both plans reportedly would include academic and student housing components.

"This is going to be a collision course," the source said.

A CRDA spokeswoman could not be reached by press time last week. But the Ocean State is a familiar place for Palmieri: After earning a master's degree from the University of Rhode Island, he found his first economic development job in Central Falls, a city just north of Providence. He then spent 18 years in the planning and development office of the Rhode Island state capital.

A Devils-may-care sponsor

The reports about the New Jersey Devils again seeking an outside investment partner are nothing if not persistent, even after Jeff Vanderbeek bought out his other partners and restructured the team's debt in January. But if the investment group led by Andrew Barroway is successful in purchasing the Newark-based hockey team, the South Jersey attorney might find himself in some interesting conversations with some of the team's biggest sponsors.

Barroway's previous firms specialized in bringing class-action lawsuits on behalf of shareholders and customers. It turns out some of the companies Barroway's firm sued are major sponsors of the hockey team.

His firm sued PNC Financial Services in 2002 over three "special-purpose entities" the bank established, allegedly to hide underperforming assets.

Also in 2002, Barroway's firm sued American Express, another Devils sponsor, for alleged SEC violations.

Barroway stepped away from his law firm in 2011.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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