Dan Breen started his new job in mid-October, and it didn't take long for the phone to start ringing in his Hasbrouck Heights office.
That's because he is the head of Jones Lang LaSalle's business and economic incentives group in the Northeast, a post he took only weeks after New Jersey overhauled its incentives to make them among the most competitive in the country.
“There's a great deal of interest … from both within and outside of the state,” Breen said. “Companies are giving New Jersey a look because of these programs, and because they feel like they're going to make a significant economic difference to their projects' feasibility.”
Robert Kossar, JLL's market director for New Jersey, said the brokerage firm had been “trying to fill the job for quite a while,” seeking an expert who can do more than just walk a client through the application phase.
The firm has helped plenty of companies do just that, but he points to cases where a business was offered an award but declined it because its leadership “just didn't have the experience to understand and interpret the impact” on its bottom line over the long term.
“We really (didn't) have the expertise to articulate the impact to the balance sheet,” Kossar said.
New Jersey's incentives have protections in place to ensure the state is not throwing away money. For example, a business getting a Grow New Jersey tax credit must maintain 80 percent of the full-time jobs it had before it was approved for the award or it will forfeit any remaining installments until the jobs are restored.
“A lot of times, companies don't necessarily appreciate the commitments that are involved on their end (or) the downsides,” said Breen, an executive vice president with JLL. “A good incentives project needs to be a positive partnership between the company and the government.”
With Breen, JLL gained a specialist with 18 years of experience with incentives and tax law, Kossar said. The firm also now has someone in-house who can advise a client through the full term of the award, which can last up to 10 or 20 years depending on the program. That's critical to maintaining a full platform of real estate services.
“We just can't leave them high and dry,” Kossar said. “We need to make sure that we have an infrastructure to help them keep up with the filing they need to keep up with annually in order to keep these incentives.”
Breen will be able to tap into the firm's national business and incentives group, which is based in Dallas, as he builds JLL's practice in the Garden State. And while he will work throughout the Northeast, Kossar said, “it's very important to us for him to be spending a disproportionate amount of time in New Jersey.”
“We expect — and we strongly believe — that New Jersey is going to be the hotbed of incentives in the Northeast,” Kossar said. “We clearly have the best programs.”
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