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Christie signs incentives overhaul, calling it key to competing with other states for jobs

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Governor Christie signs the Economic Opportunity Act on September 18, 2013.
Governor Christie signs the Economic Opportunity Act on September 18, 2013. - (Andrew George / NJBIZ)

Gov. Chris Christie put pen to paper this afternoon on the Economic Opportunity Act, the long-awaited bill designed to overhaul the state's business incentives offerings.

"Today, I'm proud to make New Jersey an even more attractive place to do business by signing the bipartisan Economic Opportunity Act," Christie said in a ceremony at the Statehouse today.

The bill consolidates five current incentive programs into two — Grow New Jersey and Economic Redevelopment and Growth — while expanding eligibility and placing more focus on job creation. Christie says doing so will help New Jersey gain a more competitive edge in both the national and global markets.

"Let's not kid ourselves," Christie said. "We're competing with other states every day for the economic pie here — in the United Sates and around the world."

Ted Zangari, a real estate attorney with Newark-based Sills, Cummis & Gross who also serves as chair for the firm's redevelopment law practice group, said he thinks the bill will produce results right out of the gate.

"I believe the next two months are going to see the beginning of a flurry of economic development opportunities for the state," Zangari said.

With New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg set to leave office, Zangari said he believes the timing is perfect for New Jersey to capitalize on out-of-state business with its new set of competitive incentives.

"All the stars seem to be aligning for New Jersey to take advantage of the changing tides in the marketplace," he said.

New Jersey Business & Industry Association President Philip Kirschner said the new law will not just help in bringing new business to the state, but also provide decent enough incentives to keep those already there.

"When it comes to attracting companies, the competition is fierce, because the stakes are so high," Kirschner said in a prepared statement. "Locating a facility in a new state brings tremendous amounts of capital investment and the economic benefits of job creation that last years into the future. Likewise, keeping New Jersey companies from moving to other states is vital to keeping our economy moving forward and protecting the jobs we have."

A similar sentiment was echoed by New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Bracken, who noted the bill works to serve businesses of all sizes in a positive manner.

"This legislation is very good news for those who care about the New Jersey economy, because it is specifically designed to grow jobs and motivate companies to expand in the Garden State," Bracken said in a statement. "It allows more businesses, including small and midsize firms, to qualify for already existing tax credits when they create jobs or bring jobs to New Jersey."

Notably absent from today's ceremony was former Assemblyman Al Coutinho (D-Newark), who pleaded guilty last week to theft from his family's nonprofit foundation and falsifying financial disclosure forms with the Legislature.

Coutinho was the bill's primary sponsor in the Assembly and chairman of its Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

The bill had initially been sent to Christie in August but was sent back to the Legislature with two recommended changes — removing a requirement that union labor be used in construction and building services at projects that receive tax breaks, and eliminating tax credits for hospital redevelopment projects.

Christie's changes were swiftly approved last week by both the Assembly and Senate, sending it back to the governor's desk.

NJBIZ first reported on its website today that the bill would be signed this afternoon.

Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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