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Biz community likes Port plan

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Don't be surprised if you see the business community look beyond the Port Authority's growing list of recent political troubles and instead offer its support for passage of the authority's new 10-year, $27.6 billion capital project spending plan.

Unveiled last week, the plan calls for extensive investment into the region's infrastructure, covering everything from replacing the Goethals Bridge and raising the Bayonne Bridge to extending the PATH from Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport.

Added investment into the PATH includes a replacement of the Harrison station and renovations to Jersey City's Grove Street station.

As one insider puts it, the business community has long been in favor of updating the state's aging infrastructure because, in addition to obvious benefits, it also helps stimulate the economy.

“That is always an economic driver as well,” the insider said. “It puts people to work.”

 Big win for Jersey City 

Many New Jersey politicians were incensed by the treatment their municipalities received from the NFL — and by the lack of promised revenue. That wasn't the case in Jersey City.

The city got a boost from having both teams stay in town. And the Westin got a huge boost from a postgame celebration party.

“The Seahawks may have spent time in (New York) City later, but they were at the Westin right afterward for a big blowout for the players,” one source said.

Jersey City even made a positive out of a negative — the poorly attended Super Bowl week concert: “It was a frigid night with B-plus talent and not a lot of advance publicity,” an insider said.

“But the weather made it a good night for the restaurants when people left the park.”

The source credited Mayor Steve Fulop: “For the politician who everyone says is hard to get along with, he was the one politician who got along with the NFL — and it paid off for the city.”

Can Johnson fill Coutinho’s role?

When former Assemblyman Al Coutinho, a Newark Democrat, stepped down from his post last September shortly before pleading guilty to stealing funds from his family's charitable foundation and filing false financial records with the Legislature, the business community lost a voice in Trenton.

Seen by many as a rising star in the party, Coutinho was chair of the Assembly's Commerce and Economic Development Committee and a champion of the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, the incentives overhaul ironically signed by Gov. Chris Christie just days after Coutinho's resignation.

The committee had been without a chair until Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Teaneck) was appointed to the role two weeks ago by new Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus).

But can Johnson fill Coutinho's shoes? The early signs are encouraging, says one insider.

“I think, like anybody, he's probably going to have a little bit of a learning curve” on issues of economic development, the source said.

But by calling on members of the business community to come before the panel last week to give their take on economic development, Johnson is going about his new role in the right way, the source said.

Johnson is making an effort to “have the right people” and “the right stakeholders” present to assist him, the insider said. That's a task the business community is happy to help with.

“Legislators have to be knowledgeable in a multitude of areas,” the source said.

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

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