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Hasenbalg tells N.J. Bankers Association forum state is “ready” for Super Bowl

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MetLife Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLVIII
MetLife Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLVIII

Feb. 2 is Super Bowl Sunday at MetLife Stadium, and after two years of preparation New Jersey is ready, Wayne Hasenbalg, chief executive of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, told about 500 business people gathered Friday in Somerset for the annual economic leadership forum of the New Jersey Bankers Association.

Welcoming the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl in NFL history will be 60,000 tons of salt, 3,000 snow plows and 1,600 people to clear away the snow, if it falls, Hasenbalg said.

Sixteen state agencies have been meeting for the past two years to nail down a myriad of issues, including logistics, transportation, security and hospitality. At the December meeting, "we were so ready we cancelled our January meeting," he said. "The plans are locked down, and we are ready."

On game day, there will be 10,000 workers at the sports complex, from hot dog vendors to security guards and every single worker was background-checked, Hasenbalg said. The Super Bowl is considered the second highest potential homeland security target after a presidential inauguration.

"The countdown has begun, and this will be an opportunity to show New Jersey at its best," he said.

Dr. Robert Barchi, president of Rutgers University, also spoke at the conference Friday morning, telling those in attendance that last year's merger of most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers positions the state's public research university for new initiatives that will help drive more economic growth for New Jersey.

Rutgers rose from placing in the mid-50s to 24th among U.S. research universities, with annual grants of about $700 million, as a result of the merger with UMDNJ, he said. And he's looking for more opportunities to commercialize the innovation that emerges from research.

Barchi said Rutgers generates about $21 million a year from licensing and patents, and "we can do a much better job." He said right now, commercialization is focused in a number of big labs and will be moved across the university.

And, he said, Rutgers is working on new public/private partnerships.

One example in the engineering school is a joint venture with a pharmaceutical company that has developed a new pilot plant to make pills. He said about a half-dozen start-ups are spun out of Rutgers each year and that Rutgers needs to find "innovative ways to partner with the business community to set up early venture funding to get new companies to the point they can go out on their own."

The forum got an overall picture of the U.S. and global economy from Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He said after four years of a "rehab recovery," he is optimistic that the economy will grow at about 3 percent this year, compared with the 2 percent growth of the recent past.

He said both the housing and the banking sectors are in much better shape, and unlike in past years, there do not appear to be any economic shocks on the horizon. He said low inflation is likely to continue, making it easier for the Federal Reserve to reduce economic stimulus.

He said over the past two years, housing has begun to return to a more normal market.

"The rate of foreclosures is down, and people look at housing and are no longer afraid of it as an investment."

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Harris said "Now you have the right number of homes given the number of householders and the size of the population. We are in the beginning of a sustained construction recovery."

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