If there was any doubt about the popularity of New Jersey's new incentive programs, it was put to rest this week during an event held high atop Newark's tallest skyscraper.
Speaking to businesspeople at the National Newark Building, Tim Lizura of the Economic Development Authority said his agency is so busy with the new programs that it will hold a second board meeting this month "because I can't get everybody in through the queue fast enough" for its regular session on Feb. 11.
"A special board meeting usually is for one particular project," said Lizura, the agency's chief operating officer. "This month, it's a second board meeting that I need just to get through the pipeline."
Lizura spoke Tuesday during a panel hosted by the Newark Regional Business Partnership, as he and other experts gave their insights to brokers, attorneys and other professionals about the Economic Opportunity Act. The law, enacted in September, streamlined and strengthened the state's incentive programs, sparking new commercial activity in places such as Newark.
The EDA has approved 11 applications in two months under the revamped Grow New Jersey tax credit program, with projects tied to 3,000 new or retained jobs and more than $200 million in capital investment, Lizura said. The Brick City has been among the biggest beneficiaries so far and will continue to be so, as at least one Newark project is scheduled for an EDA vote this month.
But despite the great demand, stakeholders are still working to spread the word and educate businesses about the new incentives.
Dudley Ryan of CBRE, the leasing agent for Newark's 2 Gateway Center, outlined two steps "to try to help people navigate the perceived complications of this legislation and try to make the process as easy as possible," especially for out-of-state companies. One is the establishment of an "incentives concierge" service to walk would-be tenants through the programs.
The other is a free app that 2 Gateway is hoping to launch in the near future.
"We really want to target brokers out of state so that they realize how powerful this program is," said Dudley, a senior vice president with CBRE. "That will enable to them to save their clients and at the same time be rewarded for bringing companies into (New Jersey) and (Newark)."
Ted Zangari, an attorney with Sills Cummis & Gross, told NRBP members that Grow New Jersey recipients can boost their per-job award by meeting a host of bonus criteria. They include locating in the state's designated "urban transit hubs," being in a deep poverty pocket and bringing high-paying jobs to the state.
Those bonuses come with the potential to effectively have free rent for 10 years in places such as Newark, Zangari said. But the programs also offer enough incentives to entice a company that insists on building in a suburban or rural area, he said, though provisions aimed at environmental remediation, housing development and others areas.
"That company will still obtain, through bonus points, enough money to do the responsible thing on a cornfield, to at least decimate any offer (from Pennsylvania or New York)," Zangari said. "It's enough to get the deal done, because it's still a powerful number."